Skip to main content

Full text of "The Teaching Of The Catholic Church A Summary Of Catholic Doctrine Volume II"

See other formats

282 T255 v * 2 65-477H 
The teaching of the Catholic 

282 T255 v.2 65-V77H 
The Teaching & the Catholic 

DDD1 D3D7bfl3 S 

O- ^,y-*^^ r**^, 'i i 
A IE DUti 























See page v for Analytical List of Contents 



of the 


A Summary of 

Catholic Doctrine 

arranged and edited by 


Volume II 






Copyright, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1948 


All rights reserved no part of this book may be re- 
produced in any form without permission in writing 
from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes 
to quote brief passages in connection with a review 
written for inclusion in magazine or newspaper. 

Fourteenth Printing, 1961 



By the Right Rev. Mgr. Canon E. MYERS, M.A. 

i. The Holy Catholic Church 

The Church the Mystical Body of Christ Visible and invisible elements 

in the Church The relation between them . . . . .659 

ii. The Doctrine revealed 

Teaching of Christ Teaching of St Paul A twofold solidarity The 
Fathers ........... 662 

iii. The Doctrine Explained 

The term Meaning of the Mystical Body of Christ Vital influence of 
Christ Likeness of members to Head Union with Christ by charity 
Christ lives in the Church Holy Ghost the Soul of the Mystical Body . 667 

iv. The Mystical Body and Redemption 

The Fall and Redemption St Thomas on Redemption and the Mystical 
Body -On Baptism and Incorporation Body and Soul of the Church . 673 

v. The Sacrifice of the Mystical Body 

Redemption and Sacrifice The Mass the Sacrifice of the Mystical 
Body Christ, Head and members, offers the sacrifice Christ, Head and 
members, the victim Sacrificial attitude of mind .... 678 

vi. The Mystical Body and Holy Communion 

Union with Christ consummated by Holy Communion Nature of this 
union The sacrament of the Mystical Body Eucharist and Baptism 
Union of the faithful through the Eucharist . . . . .681 

vii. The Communion of Saints and its consequences 

Meaning of the term Veneration of the Saints Intercession of the 
Saints Relics and Images Indulgences . . . . . .685 

viii. Conclusion ........... 688 



Introductory Note . . . . . . . . . .691 


i. Corporate Fall Corporate Redemption 

Remote origins of the Church The fact of sin The Incarnation The 
Mystical Body of Christ . . . . . . . . .691 

ii. Christ the Founder of the Church 

The Church born from the death of Christ Three successive stages in 

the formation of the Church ........ 693 

iii. The Relation between Christ and the Church 

Christ the Head of the Church Christ's influence upon the Church His 
love for it The Holy Spirit and the Church The Church modelled on 
Christ Co-operation between Head and members .... 695 

iv. The Church : a vital Organism 

Diversity of function among the Church's members The Sacraments . 699 

v. The Visible Characteristics of the Church 

The Church a visible society Hostility to this doctrine The Church and 
mysticism Tne Church's unity holiness catholicity apostolicity 701 

vi. Membership 

The conditions of membership Sin does not exclude from, membership 
Excommunication, apostasy, heresy, schism Non-Catholics in good 
faith The " soul " and " body " of the Church Membership by 
desire Necessity of belonging to the Church explicitly . . . 706 






vii. Preliminary : The Authority of the Church 

The inner life of the Church and its outward structure inseparable 
The powers conferred by Christ on his Church . . . .710 

(a) Doctrinal Authority 

The infallible magisterium of the Church: The nature of infallibility 

Its scope . . . . . . .711 

(b) Jwrisdictional Authority 

legislative authority Judicial authority Coercive authority . . 714 

viii. The Pope : Vicar of Christ 

St Peter's Primacy Peter's office continued in the Pope Primacy of 
jurisdiction Papal infallibility The Pope's non-infallible teaching 
His jurisdictional authority The Pope representative, not successor, of 

ix. The Bishops : Successors of the Apostles 

Christ's commission to his Apostles The Bishops* powers Other Pre- 
lates in the Church The Bishops' doctrinal authority Their juris- 
dictional authority Pastors of souls . . . . . .721 

x. Councils of the Church 

Councils in the Church-^-Oecurnenical or General Councils Those who 

take part Conciliar decisions The function of a General Council . 724 

xi. Church and State 

The teaching of Leo XIII The sphere of the Church's authority 
" Mixed matters " The Authority of the State Power of the Church 
in political and social orders Harmony between Church and State 
Concordats ........... 726 


Indefectibility of the Church The Church lives by the Holy Spirit 

The full and objective will of Christ can only be fulfilled in the Church 730 


By the Rev. C. C. MARTINDALE, SJ. 

i. Man's Approach to God 

Composite nature of man Man's knowledge of God Worship. . 733 

ii. God's descent to man 

God reveals himself through visible things The Incarnation The work 

of salvation incarnationai : The sacraments . . . . .736 

iii. The Sacramental System 

Early developments Signs Causes The sacramental system . -739 

iv. The Theology of the Sacraments 

The Sacraments are signs Matter and form The Sacraments causes 
Causes of sanctification Christ their author Pagan mystery-cults 
The minister of the Sacraments Intention of the minister Disposi- 
tions of the recipient Obstacles to grace Effects " ex opere operantis " 
The character The Sacraments and " magic *' Synopsis of the 
* teaching of the Council of Trent ....... 744 

v. Recapitulation . . . . . . . . . .758 


By the Rev. JOHN P. MURPHY, D.D., Ph.D. 

i. Introductory 

Baptism shown to be a Sacrament ....... 767 

ii. The Sacrament of Baptism 

The sacrament The matter Blessing of water Immersion Infusion 
The form Grace of Baptism The Character Membership of the 
Church 7 68 



iii. The necessity of 'Baptism 

Indispensable for salvation Heresies on this point The Fathers No 
substitute for Baptism Two equivalents Martyrdom Charity : 
Baptism of desire Summary ........ 776 

iv. The Minister of Baptism 

Valid minister, anyone Validity of heretical baptism Even the un- 
baptised can baptise Ordinary lawful minister, priest or bishop Some 
instructions .......... 785 

v. The Subject of Baptism 

Conditions for valid reception For lawful reception The teaching of 
Scripture and Tradition The " revival " of Baptism unworthily received 
Infant Baptism God-parents . . . . . . .791 

vi. Summary ........... 797 


By the Rev. G. D. SMITH, D.D., Ph.D. 

i. The Sacrament of Maturity 

Confirmation the complement of Baptism Conferring, not full super- 
natural growth Nor the power of growth Nor supernatural nourish- 
ment Nor, specifically, the power of resistance to temptation But 
the power to fulfil one's public duty ,as a Christian The child in the 
life of grace The adult in the life of grace The duty of bearing witness 
The strong and perfect Christian The Sacrament of the Holy Spirit 803 

ii. The Spirit of Testimony 

" Qui locutus est per prophetas " In the prophets of old In the im- 
mediate heralds of the Messias In the Saviour himself Jesus anointed 
to preach the gospel The Apostles sent to continue the work Promise 
of the Spirit to the Apostles Their need of the Spirit They are warned 
to await the Spirit The promise fulfilled at Pentecost External 
phenomena and inner working of the Spirit Essential effect of the 
coming of the Spirit All the faithful must bear the burden of witness 
The task of witness will be hard The Spirit promised to all the faithful 
The Spirit granted to all the faithful . . . . . .807 

iii. The Sacrament in Scripture 

A sacrament of Confirmation antecedently probable The sacramental 
system Abnormal conditions of the primitive Church Supra-sacra- 
mental Confirmation : e.g. Pentecost ; the case of Cornelius The normal 
procedure : the Samaritans A comment of St Cyprian Simon Magus 
and the efficacy of the rite The disciples at Ephesus Always essentially 
the same grace The grace of the Spirit distinct from the grace of 
Baptism Complementary to it The special outlook of St Luke The 
grace of the Spirit conferred by a special rite and by a special minister . 814 

iv. The Sacrament in Tradition 

Confirmation and Martyrdom The rudimentary age of sacramental 
theology Two distinct questions The Sacrament of Confirmation in 
Tertullian St Cyprian St Jerome St Cyril of Jerusalem The 
Sacramentary of Serapion Innocent I Confirmation always ad- 
ministered in the history of the Church Heresies concerning Con- 
firmation History of the *' proximate matter " of the Sacrament 
What is generally admitted The early centuries : Imposition of hands 
Or anointing ? The post-baptismal anointing The Holy Spirit in 
Baptism and Confirmation A natural development The question of 
*' immediate institution " A less restricted view The institution of 
Confirmation .......... 820 

v. The administration of the Sacrament 

The rite in the West to-day Essential rite : the anointing with the 
accompanying words Is the anointing also an imposition of hands ? 
The rich symbolism of this rite Ordinary minister : the Bishop Differ- 
ence of practice between East and West Priests as extraordinary ministers 
A theological problem Recipient of Confirmation Infant Confirma- 
tion valid ........... 829 



vi. The Effects of the Sacrament 

The sacramental character The character of Confirmation The grace 

of Confirmation The fruitful reception of the Sacrament The age 

at which Confirmation should be administered Conclusion _ , . 834 

Additional Note : On the Extraordinary Minister of Confirmation . 838 


By the Rev. G. D. SMITH, D.D., Ph.D. 

i. Introductory 

Sacrifice and Sacrament . . . . - - 839 

ii. The Eucharistic Dogma 

The teaching of the Council of Trent summarised . . . .841 

iii. The Eucharist in Scripture 

The Promise of the Eucharist The Last Supper The teaching of St 

Paul 844 

iv. The Eucharist in Tradition 

St Ignatius of Antioch St Justin St Irenaeus Tertullian St 
Cyprian Origen ; St Cyril of Jerusalem St John Chrysostom 
General considerations on the Fathers ...... 850 

. Transubstantiation 

Transubstantiation and the Real Presence The doctrine in Scripture 
and Tradition Transubstantiation and philosophy Substance and 
accidents Unique character of this change ** Concomitance " The 
appearances that remain . . . . . . * . -857 

vi. The Eucharistic Presence 

The Thomistic synthesis Substantial presence Christ whole and 
entire under every part of either species The presence of the dimensions 
of Christ An imperfect analogy Consequences of this mode of presence 863 
vii. The Sacrament and its use 

The Eucharist a *' permanent " sacrament The matter The form 
What constitutes the " sacrament " ? Reservation and adoration 
Conditions of lawful reception State of grace The natural fast 
Reception under one kind ........ 867 

viii. The Effects of the Sacrament 

The Sacrament of the divine life Union with Christ The Eucharist and 
the other Sacraments Sacramental grace of the Eucharist The fervour 
of charity Other effects The necessity of the Eucharist Frequent 
Comrnunion ........... 872 


By the Rev. B. V. MILLER, D.D., Ph.D. 

i. Introductory 

A General Notion of Sacrifice . . . . . . . .880 

ii. The Sacrifice of the Mass in the Sacred Scriptures 

The Last Supper The prophecy of Malachy Priesthood according to 

the order of Melchisedech . . . . . . . .881 

iii. The Sacrifice of the Mass in Catholic Tradition 

St Cyprian Tertullian St Irenaeus St Justin Still earlier references 886 

iv. The Attack upon the Mass 

The Protestant attack on the Mass The Council of Trent Matters of 
debate ............ 893 

v. Theological Theories and Speculations 

The essential part of the Mass The theory of <c destruction " -A subtle 
variant The theory that the Supper and Calvary form numerically one 
sacrifice A further theory Oneness of faith and difference of view . 897 

vi. Those who offer the Sacrifice of the Mass 

Christ offers The Church and its members offer Various degrees of 
participation The Priest Those who provide the stipend Those 
present at Mass Our share in Christ's victimhood . . . .901 



vii. The Ends for which the Mass is offered 

Praise and Thanksgiving Propitiation Impetration .... 907 

viii. The Fruits of the Sacrifice 

Difference between sacrifice and sacrament How sins are forgiven 
through the Mass Remission of punishment For the faithful de- 
parted Limitation of fruits Are they produced infallibly ? Who are 
excluded from them ? . . . . . . . . .911 

ix. Supplementary 

Communion The Epiclesis . . . . . . .917 


By the Rev. E. J. MAHONEY, D.D. 

i. Introduction 

The purpose of human existence The supernatural state The Re- 
demption of Christ The eternal law of God The natural law Defini- 
tion of sin . . . . . . . . . . .919 

ii. Mortal Sin 

The end of the law Sin the rejection of God Distinction of sms 
Grave matter Advertence and consent Temptation .... 925 

iii. The State of Sin 

Guilt and stain Debt of eternal punishment Temporal punishment 
Human nature wounded Other consequences . . . . .929 

iv. Repentance 

Initial divine movement Detestation of sin Purpose of amendment and 
satisfaction Qualities of true repentance and amendment Necessity 
of repentance . .......... 934 

v. Perfect Contrition 

Connection with the Sacrament of Penance Perfect love of God 
Imperfect love of God How to make an act of perfect contrition . . 940 

vi. Venial Sin 

A sin consistent with grace and charity Effects Remission . . 945 

vii. Reparation ........... 952 


By the Rev. H. HARRINGTON, M.A. 

i. Introductory 

Penance and the Christian life . . . . . . . -955 

ii. The Sacrament in Scripture 

The power of the keys Power of forgiving sin A judicial power, re- 
quiring confession Universal power Permanent power Granted only 
to priests Necessary power Some objections .... 957 

iii. The Sacrament in Tradition 

Comparative silence of early centuries Clement of Rome Pastor of 
Hermas Tertullian The Montanist heresy . . . . .962 

iv. The Matter of the Sacrament 

The acts of the penitent Contrition Confession Secret confession 

in history Nature and extent of the obligation Satisfaction . . 970 

v. Indulgences 

Meaning Doctrinal bases History Kinds and conditions . . 976 

vi. The Form of the Sacrament and its Minister 

The form The form in early times The minister Jurisdiction 
Reservation Judge, physician, teacher The seal of the confessional 980 

vii. The Effects and Use of the Sacrament 

Effects Practical use of the Sacrament ...... 986 


By the Rev. J. P. ARENDZEN, D.D., Ph.D., M.A. 

L Introductory 99 

ii. The Institution of the Sacrament 

Unction as practised by the Apostles The text of St James' Epistle 
Rare early references Tertullian Origen Aphraates Chrysostom 
St Bede Extra-sacramental use of blessed oil Distinct from sacramental 
use Faith of the Church in this Sacrament . . . - 99 * 

iii. The Administration of the Sacrament 

Ordinary minister Eastern practice The anointings The form 
The consecrated oil Circumstances of administration Delay in ad- 
ministration Obligation of receiving the sacrament Repeated ad- 
ministration Intention of the recipient Conditional administration 
Danger of death Operations The validity of repeated administration . 1001 

iv. The Effects of Extreme Unction 

Remission of guilt " Habitual " sorrow necessary Venial sin The 
" remnants " of sin Temporal punishment Spiritual strength A 
theological discussion Restoration of bodily health The " revival " 
of the sacrament ......... 101 1 


By the Very Rev. Mgr. Canon C. CRONIN, D.D. 

i. The Priesthood of Christ and the Christian Priesthood . , . . 1 022 

ii. The Threefold Power of the Church. The Power and Character of Order 
Jurisdiction in general Spiritual and supernatural jurisdiction 
Teaching authority and power of Order The Sacrament of Order The 
Character of Order ......... 1025 

iii. The Apostolic Ordinations and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 

Acts of the Apostles Pauline Epistles Hierarchy of jurisdiction 
Hierarchy of Order Twofold mission of Apostolic office Establishment 
of Monarchical Episcopate St John St Paul Clement of Rome 
and St Ignatius of Antioch Bishops succeed Apostles in ordinary 
mission Divine constitution of the Church . . . . . 1 03 1 

iv. The One Priesthood : The Episcopate and the Presbyterate 

One Priesthood Pre-eminence of Episcopate in power of Order 
Distinctive power of Episcopate Two ranks in one Order Sacramental 
nature of Episcopate and Presbyterate One Sacrament . . . 1 042 

v. The Inferior or Ministerial Orders 

The Diaconate In the New Testament In the Apostolic Fathers 
Office and divine institution of Diaconate An interesting suggestion 
The Subdiaconate and the Minor Orders ...... 1047 

vi. The Matter and Form of Order 

Common ground in the controversy The tradition of the instruments 
The Church and the " substance " of the sacraments Another view 
Sacramental efficacy of the imposition of hands Anglican Orders 
Sacramental efficacy of the tradition of instruments . . . .1053 

vii. The Minister and the Recipient of Order . . . . .1059 

Note on Clerical Celibacy ........ 1060 


By the Rev. E. J. MAHONEY, D.D. 

i. The Sacrament of Matrimony 

A Type of Christ and the Church A sacrament The contract is the 
sacramental sign The ministers- Sacramental grace The power of 
Church and State .......... 1062 

ii. The Marriage Contract 

Its object and essential properties Unity of marriage Polygamy 
Second marriages Consent Ignorance Error Fear or violence . 1070 



iii. Marriage Laws 

Tridentine form Ne Temere Priest and witnesses Cases of necessity 

Civil formalities Engagement Banns Closed times . . . 1075 

iv. The Impediments 

Diriment : Abduction Age-^ Impotence Relationship Previous Mar- 
riage Order and Vow Difference of worship Crime Prohibiting : 
Vow Adoption Mixed religion Unworthiness Dispensations. . 1080 

v. Matrimonial Obligations 

Preparation Parental consent The marriage debt -Birth prevention . 1084 

vi. Divorce 

Natural law Matthew xix Separation Pauline privilege Non- 
consummated marriage Nullity decrees Conclusion . . . 1092 



L The Cause of Death 

Physiological aspect of death Death natural but penal Death and 

the immortal soul . . . . . . . . . . i 101 

ii. Death and the Supernatural Order 

Death and predestination Satisfaction of divine justice : Martyrdom 
Death the end of spiritual progress . . . . . . . 1 1 05 

iii. The Provisional nature of Death 

Destruction of death by Christ : the Resurrection Immortality even 

for the reprobate . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 08 

iv. The Death of the Son of God 

The death of Christ exemplary Devotion to the death of Christ 
Difference of his death from ours . . . . . . . mo 

v. Man's Soul at Death 

Christian immortality embraces the whole man Spirituality of the soul 
The testimony of the Church Of the human race Immortality in the 
Old Testament . . . . . . . . . . 1112 

vi. The State of the Human Soul after Death 

The disembodied soul Only the immaterial remains Intellect and 

will Executive powers An incomplete substance . . . .1114 

vii. The Intercourse of the Living with the Dead 

Necromancy in the Old Testament Natural power of spirits to com- 
municate with man Discarnate spirits The divine ordinance 
Modern spiritism . . . . . . . . . .1118 

viii. The Judge of the Living and the Dead 

God's judicial power Present as well as future Temporal and eternal 
judgements ........... 1122 

ix. The Temporal Judgement 

Christ the present judge Purgatory . . . . . .1127 

x. The Eternal Judgement of Individual Souls 

Particular judgement Of the elect Of the reprobate Degrees of 
punishment . . . . . . . . . . .1131 

xi. The Last Judgement 

Its catastrophic nature A unique event Four manifestations Christ 
judges The elect judge Christ's alleged eschatological obsession 
Millenarism . . . . . . . . . .1134 



i. Pardon and Penance 

Penance follows pardon Suffering needed for atonement and for 
cleansing How suffering cleanses Penance after death . . .1141 

ii. The Pains of Purgatory 

The love in Purgatory The pain of deferment Positive punishments . 1148 



Hi. The State of the Suffering Souls 

The souls suffer willingly They do not merit They do not sin 
Forgiveness of venial sin Duration of Purgatory . . . . 1 1 54 

iv. Purgatory in Tradition and Scripture 

Tradition The Church's practice to-day Witness of the early Church 

Holy Scripture Private revelations . . . . . .1159 

v. Intercession for the Souls in Purgatory 

We share God's love for others Mutual intercession Indulgences 

for the dead The Church's prayers for the dead Masses for the dead . 1 169 


By the Rev. J. P. ARENBZEN, D.D., Ph.D., M.A. 

i. Introductory 

Punishment Retributive punishment Its connection with sin . . 1 1 76 

ii. The Nature of Eternal Punishment 

Loss of the Beatific Vision The chief punishment of hell The loss 
definitive Its grievous nature The pain of sense Positive torment 
Real fire, not metaphorical Various views concerning its nature 
Hell a place Warning against imaginative descriptions Degrees of 
punishment ........... 1178 

iii. Eternal Punishment in Scripture 

The Old Testament The New Testament . . . . . 1 1 90 

iv. Eternal Punishment in Tradition 

Continuous and clear testimony as to existence and eternity of hell 
Question of postponement till final judgement Question of possible 
cessation Origen Teaching of the Church on the nature of the pains of 
heU 119? 

v. Eternal Punishment and Reason 

Eternal sanction reasonable God's mercy and the eternity of hell 
Hell and the sanctity of God Annihilation no sanction Common 
objections answered ......... 1200 

vi. Special Questions relating to Eternal Punishment 

" The undying worm " The devils and the damned Time in hell 
Diminution of punishment ? The case of those raised from the dead 
The relation of the damned to those on earth Spiritism Hell and the 
Divine Wisdom ......... . 1205 



i. Introductory . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 1 1 

ii. The Position and Meaning of the Doctrine 

The soul before the general judgement The Last Day Man a 
compound of body and soul Their reunion after death . . .1213 

iii. The Bodily Resurrection reasonable 

Essential union of body and soul The Incarnation Christian theology 
incarnational The ultimate felicity of man . . . . .1215 

iv. The Bodily Resurrection miraculous 

Not self-contradictory but beyond the powers of nature Scientific 
objections The cause of the resurrection is the divine omnipotence . 1218 

v. The Testimony of Holy Scripture in General 

Indications in the Old Testament Clearly taught in the Gospels 

Not a mere " spiritual " resurrection The Resurrection of Christ . 1220 

vi. The Testimony of St. Paul 

Christ's resurrection and ours The manner of the resurrection An 
analogy " Spiritual " body ........ 1224 

vii. The Testimony of Tradition 

Creeds and Councils Apostolic Fathers Athenagoras Irenaeus 
The scholastic theologians . . . . . . . 



viii. In the Same Bodies 

Identity of bodily substance : the common view Two rival views 
Spiritual and vital identity Atomic identity The majority view 
The authority of the Fathers . . . . . . . .1232 

ix. Objections and another View 

" The indifference of the atom " The circulation of matter Meta- 
bolism The view of Durand and Billot Critique Conclusion . 1238 

x. The Risen Body 

Work of theologians on the subject The resurrection of the reprobate 
Immortality and incorruptibility Impassibility Clarity Subtlety 
Agility Dominance of soul over body Preservation of the glorified 
body The Beatific Vision and the glorified body .... 1242 

By the Rev. J. P. ARENDZEN, D.D., Ph.D., M.A. 

i. Introductory ........... 1248 

ii. The Vision of God the Satisfaction of the Mind 

The essence of heaven The Joy of the Beatific Vision Its supernatural 
character Nature of the Beatific Vision The Light of Glory . . T 249 

iii. The Love of God the Satisfaction of the Will 

Embrace of God by knowledge and love Mutual love No selfishness 
The love of the Blessed for themselves Complete satisfaction 
Repose in intense activity Heaven is " life '" . . . .1256 

iv. Secondary Sources of Happiness in Heaven 

Christ in his Human Nature Mary, the Angels, and the Saints The 
wonders of Creation The glorification of the body . . . .1261 

v. Implications of Life in Heaven 

Heaven a kingdom Heaven a place The ties of kinship in heaven 
Degrees of happiness The Blessed and those on earth The Blessed 
and the reprobate .......... 1266 

vi. The Blessed before the General Judgement 

Millenarism Felicity before the Resurrection Question of the 
deferment of the Beatific Vision John XXII and Benedict XII The 
** souls under the altar '" Beatific Vision immediately after death . 1275 

Appendix The seven heavens . . . . . . . .1281 

INDEX ............ 1283 




OUR purpose in these few pages is to emphasise the truth that when 
we profess our belief in the Holy Catholic Church we make an act 
of faith in a great mystery of the Christian Revelation. 

The Church is more than a religious society whose purpose is the The Church 
worship of God, more than a society different from all others because f ^]^ y f Ucal 
it was founded by God, more than a depository of grace and re- Christ 
vealed truth. The Church herself is supernatural in her nature and 
essence, since she is the Body of Christ, living with the life of Christ 
himself, with a supernatural life. From the " fulness of Christ " 1 
all his members are filled, so that the Church herself is " the fulness 
of him who is wholly fulfilled in all." 2 Hence the mystery of the 
Church is the very mystery of Christ himself. 

Our act of faith in the great mystery of Christ's Church means 
far more than belief in a wonderful world-wide organisation of 
millions of men, united as no other group of men has ever been in 
belief, in practice, and in central government ; it means that there 
circulates throughout the Church the life of grace which Christ came 
to bring into the world, linking together the members of the Church 
under Christ their Head with such a closeness of union that Head 
and members form a unique reality : the mystical Body of Christ. 
Our act of faith in the Church is an act of faith in Christ ever active 
in our midst, ever speaking, ever teaching, ever guiding, ever sancti- 
fying those who are one with him, through the organism he has willed 
should exist in the world. 

The negation of the visible character of the Church of Christ, Visible and 
and of its hierarchical constitution, has led to such stress being laid^^ew^m 
upon the visible, tangible aspects of the Church that those who are the Church 
not Catholics have come to think of it in terms of its external organisa- 
tion and of its recent dogmatic definitions, and not a few Catholics, 
concentrating their attention upon the argumentative, apologetical, 
and controversial side of the doctrine concerning the Church, have 
been in danger of overlooking theoretically though practically it is 
impossible for them to do so the supernatural, the mysterious, the 
vital, the overwhelmingly important character of the Church as the 
divinely established and only means of grace in the world, as the 
Mystical Body of Christ. Practically the doctrine of the super- 
natural life, of sanctifying grace, of the development of the spiritual 

1 Col. ii 9 ff. 2 Eph. i 2,3. 



life, has safeguarded these deep truths ; though even there in- 
dividualism has asserted itself to the detriment of the collectivism 
of Christian activity. The stress laid by St Paul on the edification 
of the body of Christ, on the benefit the whole derives from the per- 
fection of the members, has tended to be passed over where the social 
value of the contemplative life is not appreciated. 

It is in and through the Church that Jesus Christ has willed to 
effect the salvation of mankind. From the beginning that Church 
has been a complex entity, and its history is filled with incidents m 
which men have concentrated upon some one essential element or 
its constitution to the exclusion of another equally essential element, 
and have drifted into heresy. The Church has its visible and its in- 
visible elements, its individual and its social claims, its natural and 
its supernatural activities, its adaptability to the needs of the times, 
while it is uncompromising in vindicating, even unto blood, that 
which it holds from Christ and for Christ. 

The development of the doctrine of the visible Church and of the 
authority of its visible head upon earth has been very marked. The 
persistent rejection of these revealed truths demanded their reiterated 
assertion and their vigorous defence. No thinking man can over- 
look the fact of Catholicism : there stands in the midst of the world 
a body of men with a world- wide organisation, and a carefully graded 
hierarchy, with a well-defined far-reaching process of teaching, law- 
making, and jurisdiction. The Vatican Council teaches us that 
" God has instituted the Church through his only-begotten Son, 
and has bestowed on it manifest marks of that institution, that it may 
be recognised by all men as the guardian and teacher of the revealed 
Word ; for to the Catholic Church alone belong all those many and 
admirable tokens which have been divinely established for the evident 
credibility of the Christian faith. Nay, more, the Church itself, 
by reason of its marvellous extension, its eminent holiness, and its 
inexhaustible fruitfulness in every good thing, its Catholic unity 
and its invincible stability, is a great and perpetual motive of credi- 
bility, and an irrefutable witness of its own divine mission. And 
thus, like a standard set up amidst the nations, it both invites to 
itself those who do not yet believe, and assures its children that the 
faith which they profess rests on the most firm foundation." x 

In that teaching the interplay of the visible element and the in- 
visible element is set forth most clearly ; and so it has been from the 
days of Our Lord himself. 

His parables and his teaching on his Kingdom make it clear that 
it is an organic and social entity, with an external hierarchical organi- 
sation, aiming at bringing all men into such an attitude of mind and 
heart that the just claims of God his Father are recognised and 
honoured on earth, and hereafter in the heavenly kingdom in which 
alone Christ's ideal will be perfectly achieved. On earth the seed 

1 Dogm. Const. De Fide, iii. 


is sown, the grain of mustard seed becomes the mighty-branched 
tree ; the leaven works in the paste and raises it ; even now we 
must needs enter in if our lot is to be with the elect ; this, then, is 
the Kingdom preached by Christ and his followers. 

On earth the kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed 
good seed in his field, but while men were asleep his enemy came and 
over-sowed cockle among the wheat ; 1 again it is " like to a net 
cast into the sea, and gathering together all kinds of fishes " ; 2 again 
it is likened to ten virgins the wise and the foolish. Members of 
the Kingdom may give scandal and be rejected, they may be perse- 
cuted and falter before the deceptions of Antichrist. No doubt the 
Kingdom is life and spirit, and "the true adorers shall adore the 
Father in spirit and in truth." 3 But it is also clear that Christ's 
Kingdom is seen and known and persecuted, and subject to the 
vicissitudes of human movements. 

Now it was precisely the visible organised body of men that Saul 
the persecutor knew, when he was " consenting to the death " of 
Stephen, a deacon of the organised Church, and when he " made 
havoc of the Church," imprisoning its members ; when he set forth 
from Damascus, " breathing out threatenings and slaughter " against 
them. In later years he recalls that he was " according to zeal, 
persecuting the Church of God " ; 4 " that beyond measure I 
persecuted the Church of God and wasted it." 5 " For I am the 
least of the Apostles . . . because I persecuted the Church of God." 6 

Our Lord has willed that his Church should be what it is, and The relation 
that it should be the instrument of salvation for all. He might have between them 
willed otherwise : he might have dealt with individual souls as 
though no other individual souls existed, by direct and immediate 
action, without taking into account the actions, the reactions, and the 
interactions of souls upon one another ; without the realities under- 
lying the Mystical Body ; he might have ensured the preservation 
of his doctrine by direct revelation to individual souls ; he might 
have willed that his followers should have been unknown in this 
world and known only to him, linked without knowing it in the 
invisible, mysterious life of grace with no external sign of com- 

But that was not his will. He has taken into account the normal 
workings of our nature and he has supernaturalised them. Our 
individuality is respected, our social nature is respected too. Man 
is essentially a dependent being : dependent upon others for his life 
and its preservation, yearning for the company and the help of others. 
And so too in the supernatural life : the personal love of Our Lord 
for each one of us does not deprive us of the supernatural help, 
support, and sympathy of those with whom we are united in Christ, 
in his Church. Under the headship of the successor of Peter, the 

1 Matt, xiii 24 fL 2 Matt, xiii 47. 3 John iv 23. 

4 Phil, iii 6. 5 GaL 113. 8 i Cor. xv 9. 


Christ-founded Church teaches, safeguards and sanctifies its mem- 
bers, and their co-ordinated, directed prayers and efforts combine 
to achieve the purpose for which Christ founded his Church by 
mutual help and intercession and example. 

Man is a sense-bound creature and the appeal of sense is con- 
tinuous. Our Lord has taken our nature into consideration. The 
merely invisible we can accept on his authority. But he has given 
us a visible Church, with recognisable rules and laws and doctrines 
and means of sanctification, in which man is at home. We accept 
Our Lord's gift to us with gratitude and strive to avail ourselves of its 
visible and invisible character. He has willed that as individuals we 
should be united with him by sanctifying grace, and that at the same 
time we should be united to one another with a unique collectivity, 
an unparalleled solidarity, which is the reality designated as the 
Mystical Body of Christ. And he has further willed that all the 
members of that Mystical Body should be members of the visible, 
organised hierarchical society to which he has given the power of 
teaching, ruling, and sanctifying. That visible Church is to be the 
unique indefectible Church which is to last until the end of time, 
and in its unity to extend all over the world. 

The analogy of Body and Soul is used of the Church of God, 
and may be useful in emphasising the relative importance of the 
two essential elements of the Church. Our Lord wills that all should 
have life and should have it more abundantly : we have that life 
when we form part of the Mystical Body of Christ by supernatural 
Charity. All the merely external elements of Church membership 
will be insufficient unless the purpose of that external organisation 
is achieved : life-giving union with Christ. It is for that purpose 
alone that the visible Church exists. 


OUR Lord's prayer for the unity of his Church stands out very 
vividly. " Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou hast 
given me, that they may be one as we also are. While I was with 
them I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou gavest me I have 
kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition." x 

That last prayer of Our Lord, embodying his last wish, embodies 
also his abiding, effective will. He had told his apostles that " I am 
the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. Abide in me and 
I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide 
in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the 
vine, you are the branches ; he that abideth in me and I in him, the 
same beareth much fruit, for without me you can do nothing." 2 
When he sent his Apostles on their mission, he told them : " He that 
receiveth you receiveth me" 3 " He that heareth you heareth me. 

1 John xvii 1 1-12. 2 John xv 1-5. 3 Matt, x 40. 


He that despiseth you despiseth me, and he that despiseth me de- 
spiseth him that sent me." * And In the picture Our Lord gives us 
of the last judgement (Matthew xxv 31 to 40) he identifies himself 
with his followers, and declares that " as long as you did it to one 
of these my least brethren, you did it to me." 

When St Paul was struck down on the way to Damascus he heard The teaching 
a voice saying to him " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ? " *of StPaul 
Who said " Who art thou, Lord ? " and he, " I am Jesus, whom 
thou persecutest." Saul was persecuting the Church of God ; Our 
Lord identifies himself with that persecuted Church : in persecuting 
the Church Saul was persecuting Christ himself. Thus at the very 
outset of his Christian career, St Paul learned that truth which was 
to affect the whole of his teaching, the truth of the union of Christ 
with his Church, a union so close, so unique, so unparalleled, that 
he uses one imaged expression after another to try to bring home to 
his hearers a fuller realisation of the supernatural reality which had 
been revealed to him. He uses the analogy of the human body, of 
the building, of grafting, to render more vivid the truth he wants 
Christians to understand. Christ is the Head of his Church, and 
" he hath subjected all things beneath his feet and hath given him 
for supreme Head to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of 
him who is wholly fulfilled in all." 3 And again, " the husband is 
the head of the wife, as Christ too is Head of the Church, himself 
being the saviour of the body." 4 And speaking of the visionaries 
of Colossa, he emphasised their " not holding fast by the head, for 
from this [which is Christ] the whole body, nourished and knit 
together by means of the joints and ligaments, doth grow with the 
growth that is of God." 5 And again in the Epistle to the Ephesians, 6 
" Rather shall we hold the truth in charity and grow in all things 
unto him who is the Head, Christ." 

Christ, then, is the Head of the Church, which is his body ; the 
Church is the fulness of Christ, made up of head and members. 
" You are [together] the body of Christ, and severally his members." 
The body of Christ, like the human body, presents a variety of 
structure, but " now there are many members yet one body." 7 
And there is a variety of functions which cannot be exercised in 
isolation. " The eye cannot say to the hand ' I have no need of 
thee ' ; nor again the head to the feet ' I have no need of you.' Nay, 
much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker 
are [still] necessary. . . . [Yea] God hath [so] compounded the body 
[as] to give special honour where it was lacking, that there may be 
no schism in the body, but that the members may have a common 
care for each other. And if one member suffereth, all the members 
suffer therewith. If a member be honoured, all the members rejoice 
therewith. Now you are [together] the body of Christ, and severally 

1 Luke x 16. 2 Acts ix 4. 3 Eph. i 22-23. 

4 Eph. v 23. 5 Col. ii 19. 6 iv 15. 7 i Cor. xii 20. 


his members." 1 Those varied gifts have their place in the Church, 
" and himself * gave J some as Apostles, some as prophets, some as 
evangelists, some as shepherds and teachers for the perfecting of the 
saints in the work of the ministry unto the building up of the body of 
Christ. 5 * 2 Again, " to one through the Spirit is granted utterance 
of wisdom, to another utterance of knowledge according to the same 
Spirit ; to another faith in the same Spirit ; and to another, gifts 
of healings [still] in the same Spirit ; and to another, workings of 
miracles ; to another, prophecy, [divers] kinds of tongues, and to 
another interpretation of tongues." 3 

Yet in spite of this variety of gifts and endowments, all must tend 
to perfect unity. " For all you who were baptised into Christ have 
put on Christ. In him is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor 
free, neither male nor female ; for ye are all one person in Christ 
Jesus/* 4 " For the perfecting of the saints in the work of ministry 
unto the building up of the body of Christ till we all attain to the 
unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to the 
perfect man, to the full measure of the stature of Christ . . . thus 
. . . rather we shall hold the truth in charity, and grow in all things 
into him who Is the Head, Christ. From him the whole body, 
welded and compacted together by means of every joint of the sys- 
tem, part working in harmony with part [from him] the body 
deriveth its increase unto the building up of itself in charity." 5 

Without going into exegetical detail, the truth that St Paul is 
trying to express is clear : that there is the very closest possible 
relation between the members of the Church and the Head of the 
Church, so close that together they may be looked upon as one person, 
and that there is an ever-growing, intimate compenetration of mem- 
bers and head ; the working of the members together with their 
Head constitutes the fulness of Christ ; and in order that this uni- 
versal fulness of grace should be diffused, our effort and our collab- 
oration is called for : Christ is only his whole self by the unceasing 
working of his members. The gifts they severally receive have no 
other purpose than to foster this increase, and in the working out of 
Christ's scheme, the head is not the whole body, though it may be 
the focus of the whole vital influence. Merely to say that Christ is the 
Head is not fully to define Christ. " God hath given him for -the 
supreme head to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him, 
who is wholly fulfilled in all." 6 

In these many passages we are faced by a reality which goes 
beyond any mere moral influence, any relation of the merely moral 
order. The influence of Christ upon his members is a real, a vital 
influence, the nature of which we have to bring out more clearly. 
St Paul, in speaking of Christ as Head of the Church, is speaking of 
Christ as he now actually is. No longer the suffering Son of God 

1 i Cor. xii 20-27. z Eph. iv 11-12. 3 i Cor. xii 8-n. 

4 Gal. iii 27. 6 Eph. iv 12-16. 6 Eph. i 22. 


making his way in the midst of men, but Christ triumphant, in- 
separable from the fruits of his victory, from those whom he has 
redeemed, whose redemption is realised by their incorporation with 
him ; so that in virtue of their union with Christ they share in his 
merits and in his glory. 

To the solidarity of human nature in Adam, with its Original Sin A twofold 
and consequent evils, God has willed to contrast a more glorious ^Hdarity 
restoration, a triumphant solidarity of supernaturalised creation 
transcending the limits of time and place and uniting all " in Christ/' 
whether Jew or Gentile, so that " through him we both have access 
in one Spirit to the Father/' * That is the great " Mystery of 
Christ," 2 bringing together mankind in one city, one family, one 
temple, one body under the headship of Christ, " recapitulating " 
all in Christ, so that all who are justified should think and act as 
members of the Body of Christ, having the closest possible relations 
as individuals with Christ their Redeemer, and through him and in 
him, with their fellow Christians. Relations so close that the merits 
of Christ become theirs in proportion to the degree of their identifica- 
tion with him, and the merits of all avail unto all for the achieving of 
Christ's purpose, the application of his merits to the salvation of 

This great Mystery of the identification of Christ and the faithful 
in the mystical body of which he is the head and they are the members 
dominates the mind of St Paul. Christ is the head, the Source of its 
corporate unity ; the indwelling of his Spirit is the source of its 
spiritual activity. 

" It seems to be true, speaking quite broadly, that where the 
Apostle refers to Christ's Mystical Body, whether a propos of the 
whole Church or of the individual, he is thinking primarily of external 
organisation, and when he refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, 
primarily of inward sanctification. The doctrine of the Mystical 
Body, like that of the Kingdom in the Gospels, has its internal and 
external aspect." 3 

St Paul teaches us that it is by Baptism that we enter upon our 
" new life " " in Christ Jesus," when we die to sin, and are crucified 
with Christ and, " putting on the Lord Jesus," 4 become one with 
him, identified with him, incorporated in him, members of his body 
and members of one another. 

The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ is one which has The Fathers 
stood out quite clearly from the very beginning. It has not under- 
gone development. The sacred writers have simply made known 
to us the reality revealed to them. This being so, it will be unneces- 
sary to quote at any length the teaching of the Fathers on this most 
important point. A few indications will suffice. 

St Irenaeus is familiar with the idea that the Churches scattered 

x Eph. ii 1 8. 2 Eph. 1114. 

3 Lattey, Westm. New Test., Vol. iii, p. 247. * Rom. xiii 14. 


throughout the world form a unique community ; and that social 
reality corresponds to a mystical reality, for the Church is the group- 
ing of the adopted sons of God, the body of which Christ is the Head, 
or is simply " the great and glorious body of Christ," which Gnostics 
divide and seek to slay. 1 For Tertullian all the faithful are members 
of one same body, the Church is in all those members, and the Church 
is Jesus Christ. 2 St Ambrose, explaining the teaching of the Epistle 
to the Ephesians, gives as the motive of the charity we must have for 
one another^ our close union with Christ, as we form only one body, 
of which he is the Head. 3 

The teaching of St Augustine is so full that it might well fill a 
volume. The Church is the body of Christ and the Holy Ghost is 
the soul of that body ; for the Holy Ghost does in the Church all 
that the soul does in all the members of one body ; hence the Holy 
Ghost is for the body of Jesus, which is the Church, what the soul 
is for the human body. Therefore if we wish to live of the Holy 
Ghost, if we wish to remain united to him, we must preserve charity, 
love truth, will unity, and persevere in the Catholic faith ; for just 
as a member amputated from the body is no longer vivified by the 
soul, so he who has ceased to belong to the Church receives no more 
the life of the Holy Spirit. 4 " The Catholic Church alone is the 
body of Christ . . . outside that body the Holy Spirit gives life to 
no man . . consequently those who are outside the Church have 
not the Holy Spirit." 5 " His body is the Church, not this Church 
or that Church, but the Church throughout the whole world ; . . . 
for the whole Church, consisting of all the faithful, since all the faith- 
ful are members of Christ, has in Heaven that Head which rules his 
body." 6 In his De Unitate Ecclesiae (2), he tells us that " the 
Church is the body of Christ, as the Apostle teaches. 7 Whence it is 
manifest that he who is not a member of Christ cannot share in the 
salvation of Christ. The members of Christ are bound together by 
the union of charity, and by that self-same charity they are united 
to their Head, who is Christ Jesus." In the De Cimtate Dei, 8 he 
emphasises the union of the souls of the departed with the Church 
which is the Kingdom of Christ. The members of the Church alive 
on earth are one with the departed ; hence the commemoration of 
the departed at the Eucharist, and hence again the practice of re- 
conciling sinners on their death -bed and baptising the dying. Hence 
again the commemoration of the martyrs who bore witness to the 
truth unto death, and who now reign in Christ's kingdom. To that 
Church of God belong also the just of all ages, and also the angels of 
God, for the angels persisted in their love of God and in their service 

1 Contra Hcsr., iv 33, 7. 2 De Poenitentia, X. 

3 Letter 76, No. 12. 4 Sermons 267, 268, 

5 St Augustine, Letter 185, section 50. 

6 Enarrationes in Psalmos Ivi i . 

7 Col. i 24. 8 xx 9. 


of God. 1 St Augustine thus explains the binding force of the Church 
of God : " Our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered for us and rose 
again, is the Head of the Church, and the Church is his body, and 
in his body it is the unity of the members and the union of charity 
that constitute its health, so that whenever a person grows cold in 
charity he becomes a sick member of the body of Christ. But he 
who exalted our Head is also able to heal our infirm members, pro- 
vided only they have not been cut off by undue weakness, but have 
adhered to the body until they were healed. For whatever still 
adheres to the body is not without hope of healing ; but if he should 
be cut off from the body his cure is impossible." 2 " It is the Holy 
Spirit that is the vivifying force in the body of Christ." 3 


IN view of the confusion that exists to-day in the use of the term The term 
" mystical " it may be well to give some account of its various 
meanings in ancient and modern literature. 4 Etymologically it is 
akin to " mystery " ; both words spring from the Greek fjiva> : to 
close the lips or the eyes, lest words should reveal or eyes see what 
is hidden. Thus in pre-Christian literature it is used of pagan 
cults, indicating a religious secret bound up with the " mysteries," 
which were closed to all but the initiated. Nevertheless it is some- 
times used colloquially of non-religious secrets. 5 

The Christian uses of the term are manifold. We find the word 
commonly connected with the celebration of the Christian mysteries, 
especially of Baptism and the Eucharist. Whatever was concerned 
with the administration of the Sacraments, or their explanation, was 
" mystical." Even to-day we speak of the " mystical oblation," the 
" mystical sacrifice," the " mystical cleansing." It is easy to see, 
therefore, how the word " mystical " was used so frequently to 
designate the sacrament, or the outward sign of inward grace. It is 
also used in the sense of " symbolical " or " allegorical." Hence the 
" mystical meaning of Scripture " is the spiritual, figurative, or 
typical meaning, as distinct from the literal or obvious meaning. 
The mystical sense of Scripture is that hidden meaning which under- 
lies the simple statement of events. Again the word " mystical " 
is applied to the hidden reality itself. The sacred writer often sets 
forth the truth in allegories, comparisons, and figures of speech ; 
thus St Paul teaches us that the faithful are members of the organism 

1 Enchiridion Ivi ; Sermon, 341, 9. 2 Sermon 137, i 

3 Sermon 267, 4. The patristic teaching will be found set out at length 
in Petavius, De Incarnatione, Bk. XII, c. 17, 8 ; in Thomassinus, De 
Incarnatione, Bk. VI, c. 7-9 ; in Kirsch, The Doctrine of the Communion of 
Saints in the Ancient Church. 

4 C/. Prat, Theologie de St Paul, ii (loth Ed., 1925), P- 4^7- 
8 C/. Cicero ad Attic., vi 3. 


of which Christ is the Head, and of which the faithful form the body. 
This is what we have come to speak of as the " mystical body of 

A farther development of those earlier meanings is the applica- 
tion of the term to the hidden and mysterious realities of the super- 
natural order. In this sense the secrets of grace in the souls of men, 
supernatural communications with God, are " mystical." In a more 
restricted sense it is used of the spiritual life of faith and sanctifying 
grace with its striving after perfection through prayer and mortifica- 
tion : the " mystical life." But in the strictest and technical sense 
it is applied to the state of infused contemplation. 

What may be designated as the post- Christian or non-Christian 
senses of the term are not easy to analyse. But in a philosophical 
religious sense the term is used of any teaching which admits the 
possibility of reaching " the fundamental principle of things " other- 
wise than by the normal use of the human faculties. A linked mean- 
ing takes us away even from that vague religious sphere into the 
realm of thought inaccessible to ordinary minds dependent on in- 
tuition, instinct, or feeling. A still more vague use of the term is the 
fashionable craze for designating anything that is secret, or in any 
way connected with worship, with sentiment, with dreams, with the 
indefinable, the invisible, as <c mystical." 

It may not be without interest to note that the term " mystical 
body J> which is used by commentators on the scriptures and by 
theologians to designate the body of Christ, put before us so vividly 
by St Paul and by the early Fathers, does not actually occur in the 
New Testament, nor yet in the patristic writings. The two words 
" mystical body " are actually combined by St John Chrysostom, 
when he is speaking of the Blessed Eucharist. 1 And that patristic 
use of " mystical body " for the Eucharist persisted in Rabanus 
Maurus (died 856) and in Paschasius Radbertus (died 851). The 
latter's book on the Body and Blood of the Lord has a chapter (7) 
on the uses of the term " body of Christ," where " mystical body " 
is still confined to the Blessed Eucharist. Alexander of Hales, 
who died in 1245, in his Universes Theologies Summa^ treating of the 
grace of Christ and his Headship of the Church, uses the words 
" mystical body " of the Church. The same use is found in William 
of Auvergne (died 1249) * n ^ s e Ordine,* and in Albert the Great 
(1206-80). All three authors use the term quite as a matter of course, 
and it would seem to have been in common use in the early thirteenth 

Albert the Great explains the term " Mystical Body," applied to 
the Church, as the result of the assimilation of the whole Church 
to Christ consequent upon the communion of the true Body and 

1 Homily on the resurrection of the dead, n. 8, Gaume edition, Paris 1834, 
p. 56 C. 

2 Edition 1622, Vol. z, p. 73. 3 Opera, vol. i, p. 545. 


Blood of Christ in the Eucharist ; so that the true Body of Christ 
under the appearance of bread became the symbol of the hidden 
divine reality. 

What, precisely, then, is meant by the Mystical Body of Christ ? l Meaning of 
It is obvious that the Church is not the natural Body of Christ. ^ d f^ tical 
On the other hand it is more than merely morally the Body of Christ, Christ 
i.e., the union between its members and Christ is not merely the 
union of ideas and ideals there is a much closer connection between 
Christ the Head and his members, constituting a unique entity, 
which, because of its close connection with the Word Incarnate, is 
designated by a unique name : the Mystical Body of Christ a body 
in which the members, living indeed their natural life individually, 
are supernaturally vivified and brought into harmony with the whole 
by the influence, the wondrous power and efficacious intervention of 
the Divine Head. That Invisible Head ever abides, the members 
of the Mystical Body come and go, but the Body continues to exercise 
its influence in virtue of the vivifying power from on high animating 
its members, and that with such persistence and consistency, with 
such characteristic independence of action transcending the powers 
of the individual members, that we may speak of it as a Person, as 
Christ ever living in his Church, which is his Body, inasmuch as we 
are the members of which he is the Head. 

What makes Christ's Mystical Body so very different from any 
mere moral body of men is the character of the union existing 
between Christ and the members. It is not a mere external union, 
it is not a mere moral union : it is a union which, as realised in 
Christ's Church, is at once external and moral, but also, and that 
primarily, internal and supernatural. It is the supernatural union 
of the sanctified soul with Christ, and with all other sanctified souls 
in Christ. Now, given the nature of the human soul, its individ- 
uality, its immortality, it is clear that the union of our soul with 
Christ in his Mystical Body excludes the conversion of our soul into 
the Divine Substance, excludes any identification of man with God, 
any confusion or a co-mingling of the Divine and human natures. 
In that union there is not and cannot be equality or identity, but 
there is a likeness, a supernatural likeness between our soul and 
Christ the Head of the Mystical Body. 

With Christ we form one Mystical Body, whereof he is the Head Vital 
and we are the members. A unique Body indeed, not a physical ^f 6 of 
body, not a merely moral body, but a Mystical Body without parallel 
in the physical or moral order. As our Head, Christ exercises a 

1 The principles of St Thomas utilised in this section will be found : 
Summa TheoL, III, Q. viii ; III Sent. Dist., 13 ; Qucsstiones Disput. : de 
Veritate, Q. xxix, art. 4 and 5 ; Compendium Theologicce, Cap. 215 ; and 
also St Thomas's Commentary on i Cor., chap, xii, lect. 3 ; Commentary on 
Eph.j chap, i, lect. 7 and 8 ; chap, iv, lect. 4 and 5 ; Commentary on Co/., 
chap, i, lect. 5. 


continuous, active, vitalising, interior, and hidden influence, govern- 
ing, ruling, and raising his incorporated members. So that from 
Christ as Head comes the Unity of that Body, its growth, the vitality 
transmitted throughout its members. The life and increase of that 
Body is obtained by the operations of each of the members according 
to the measure of the vitalising influence which each one receives 
from the Head. 1 

That is the internal influence he exercises through his grace in 
our souls. There is, moreover, the external influence he exercises 
through his visible Church. 

It is by the grace of Christ that we are united to Christ our Head, 
and Christ is the source of all our grace in the present dispensation. 
Not, indeed, that we are to conceive that the very grace which existed 
in his human soul is transferred to ours that would be absurd ; but 
he is the source of our grace inasmuch as in the Divine Plan of 
Redemption he merited grace for us, and is the efficient instrumental 
Cause of grace, since as Man he taught the truth to men, he founded 
his Church and therein established the power of jurisdiction, teach- 
ing authority, and Holy Orders, and in particular because he in- 
stituted the sacraments, whereby grace is produced, and he gives to 
those sacraments all the efficacy they possess. This causality of 
Christ, this active influence exercised by Christ, the Church never 
loses sight of, ever directing her petitions to God : Through Jesus 
Christ our Lord. 

Our chief concern at present is, however, not so much with the 
active influence exercised by Christ, as with the effect which is 
thereby produced in men by Christ, produced by the Head upon 
the members of the Mystical Body. 

Likeness of In virtue of our incorporation in Christ, we are united to Christ, 

members to an( j ^hat U nion consists in the supernatural likeness established between 
our soul and Christ : for unity of souls is as we have seen obtained 
by likeness. Now that likeness is manifold. There is, first of all, 
a real and physical (not material) likeness, attained by the justified 
soul, inasmuch as the sanctifying grace, the infused virtues and the 
gifts of the Holy Spirit which are bestowed upon it, are of the same 
species as those which inhered in and were infused into the human 
soul of Christ : they differ, of course, in degree, inasmuch as in 
Christ they exist in the supreme degree. In the faithful soul this 
sanctifying grace, with its retinue of virtues and gifts, may, of course, 
be increased by meritorious good works, and thus the likeness to 
Christ increases. From that physical likeness there follows moral 
likeness also. For being informed, being vitalised by the same super- 
natural life, we are disposed to the same supernatural activity as 
Christ himself : that is to say, the infused supernatural habits dis- 
pose the soul to the same operations, freely performed, as those 

1 Cf. the scriptural texts quoted above, pp. 663-664 : Col. ii 18-19 ; 
Eph. i 22-23 J i y 15-16 ; v 23. 


elicited by Christ : the Christian by acting in accordance with those 
virtues, imitates or follows Christ. We are thus united to Christ in 
thought and word and deed, striving to look at all things as Christ 
himself would have looked at them, to speak of all as Christ would 
have spoken, to behave to all as Christ would have behaved thus 
becoming " other Christs." Christ became the living standard of 
holiness, the divine example which we strive to reproduce in our- 

Besides that union of our soul with Christ through supernatural Union with 
likeness, we must recall the union consequent upon supernatural Christ by 
cognition and love, a most intimate union. Christ is known to his c anty 
followers by Faith, he is loved by Charity : how deep may be that 
knowledge, how intense, how ardent that love, how efficacious and 
vivifying may be the influence thus exercised by Christ is to be seen 
in the lives of the Saints. It is clear that here exists true friendship, 
the mutual love of benevolence of Christ for the Faithful, of the 
Faithful for Christ. But this friendship not only exists between 
Christ and each of the faithful, but also mutually amongst the faithful 
themselves. The love whereby the Christian loves Christ is super- 
natural charity, the primary object of which is God himself, as he is 
himself Infinite Goodness itself. But the secondary object of that 
theological charity is every single one of our neighbours, inasmuch 
as he is actually or potentially a sharer in the Divine Goodness. 
And so by loving Christ, we wish happiness to ourselves and to our 
neighbours ; by the virtue of hope we hope it for ourselves and for 
others ; and finally, by performing works of mercy, we co-operate in 
procuring for one another sanctification in this life and eternal happi- 
ness in the next. And all this meets in due subjection and obedience 
to the Vicar of Christ, who in this world rules and governs the 
Mystical Body of Christ. Hence arises the Communion of Saints, 
which is the communication of good things amongst all the members 
of the whole Church : militant, suffering, and triumphant. 

And thus the life which animates the Mystical Body of Christ 
consists in (i) the unity of souls by likeness to Christ, and (2) the 
unity of souls by knowledge and love and consequent co-operation. 

What confronts the world and the powers of evil at every moment Christ lives 
of the world's history is not merely the resolute will of strenuous in the Church 
and righteous men banded together in the most wonderful organisa- 
tion the world has ever known : behind that will, behind that or- 
ganisation, is the will and power of Christ working through bis grace, 
reproducing in every age supernatural effects of virtue, arousing in 
every age similar opposition from all, of whatever type or character, 
who are not in the fullest harmony with Christ our Lord. Of the 
undying character of that hatred, that virulent, active hostility, there 
can be no doubt, and in the world there is one Body alone upon 
which all anti-Christians, and not a few professing Christians, can 
agree to concentrate their destructive energies : surely the very 


abnormal character and persistency of that attack, reproducing in its 
varying phases every phase of opposition to Jesus Christ himself, 
is a strong corroboration of the well-founded character of the claims 
of the Catholic Church, that she and she alone is the Mystical Body 
of Christ, that in and through her alone Christ still lives and speaks 
to the world. 

It is this silent, supernatural influence radiating from Christ in- 
dwelling in his Church which is the real explanation of that wonderful 
unity of faith which characterises the genuine Catholic Church : 
which, as the priest speaks to the people, brings forth acts of faith 
from the hearts of his hearers, which, when Catholics are gathered 
together at a Eucharistic Congress, causes every heart and mind 
to be in complete, entire, and helpful harmony with every Catholic 
mind and heart throughout the entire universe. It is that same 
silent influence which accounts for the self-sacrifice and generosity 
of Christ's servants, manifesting itself in identical ways in cloister 
and home, in modern and ancient times, although no external com- 
munication has taken place between Christ's faithful ones. 
Holy Ghost The soul of the Mystical Body is the Holy Spirit : he is the in- 
/ Aspiring, the animating principle. He indwells in the Church and in 
each one of the faithful, be is the internal force giving life and move- 
ment and cohesion. He is the source of the multiplicity of charis- 
mata manifesting the vitality of the Body. 1 From him proceeds 
even the smallest supernatural act, for " no one can say * Jesus is 
Lord/ save in the Holy Spirit. 

" The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Christ, in him he is and through 
him he is given to us. His work is to achieve unity, unity among 
men, and with God." 2 

Jesus in his mortal days was " full of the Holy Ghost," 3 " and 
of his fulness we all have received." 4 " But the Paraclete, the 
Holy Ghost, whom the Creator will send in my name, he will teach 
you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall 
have said to you." 5 

" But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, that man is not 
of Christ." 6 " And because ye are sons, God" hath sent forth the 
Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father ! " 7 

Baptism, which incorporates us into the Mystical Body, gives us 
too the principle of our unity and activity : " For as the body is 
one and hath many members, and all the members of the body, many 
as they are, form one body, so also [it is with] Christ. For in one 
Spirit all we, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, were 
baptised into one body ; and were all given to drink of one Spirit." 8 

This common teaching was set forth by Leo XIII in 1897 in his 
Encyclical Divinum illud munus on the Holy Ghost : " Let it suffice 

1 Rom. xii 4-11. 2 St Cyril of Alex., Com. on John xvii 30-21. 

3 Luke iv i. 4 John i 16. 5 John xiv 26. 

6 Rom. viii 9. v Gal. iv 6. 8 i Cor. xii 12-13. 


to state that as Christ is the Head of the Church, the Holy Spirit 
is the soul of the Church/* 


THE record of God's dealings with man makes clear a two-fold con- The Fall 

trast between grace and unity on the one hand and sin and discord y* 

-o.^u^j ii 1. i T - r Redemption 

on the other. God s grace has ever been the great unifying factor, 

uniting God with man and man with his fellow-men. Sin separates 
man from God and from his fellow-men. The purpose of Christ's 
coming into the world was to rid it of discord and unite it with God 
in the grace-union once more. His supreme prayer for his followers 
was " that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me and I in thee ; 
that they also may be one in us ... that they may be one as we also 
are one. I in them and thou in me ; that they may be made perfect 
in one." 

In the mystery of the Redemption by the Word Incarnate we see 
the relation of fallen man to God changed to man's advantage ; he 
has been redeemed, saved, reconciled, delivered, justified, re- 
generated ; he has become a new creature. The significance of 
the Redemption from the point of view of our subject lies in this, 
that the Redemption of man is analogous to his Fall. All men, 
deriving their human nature from Adam, had inherited from him 
the stain of original sin, and thus the whole human race in one man 
had been set at enmity with God. Just as man's Fall had been cor- 
porate, so his reconciliation was to be corporate too. For the fatal 
solidarity with Adam which had resulted in death and sin was to be 
substituted a new and salutary solidarity whereby all men, born in 
sin of the first Adam, might be regenerated to the life of grace in the 
new Adam, Jesus Christ. Our lost rights to supernatural develop- 
ment in this world, and to a vision of God after the time of probation, 
have been restored to us through the supernatural action of Christ's 
human nature, hypostatically united to the Word of God. Christ is 
the Spokesman of mankind, the Representative Man, the Second 
Adam, carrying out for our sakes what we could not carry out for 
ourselves, giving to God that glory and adoration, that worship, 
thanksgiving, and reparation, which the Man-God alone could give. 
In virtue of our solidarity with him we share in the results of his 
activity, and our share will be the greater in the measure in which 
we more and more completely identify ourselves with Christ, " put 
on Christ," become " other Christs." 

It is in terms of this solidarity of man with Christ, in terms of the St Thomas 
Mystical Body formed by mankind united with its Head, that 
Thomas, as follows, sets forth the doctrine of the Redemption, 
of the application of its fruits : Body 

" Since he is our Head, then, by the Passion which he endured 
from love and obedience, he delivered us as his members from our 


sins, as by the price of his passion : in the same way as if a man by 
the good industry of his hands were to redeem himself from a sin 
committed with his feet. For just as the natural body is one, though 
made up of diverse members, so the whole Church, Christ's Mystical 
Body, is reckoned as one person with its Head, which is Christ." 1 

" Grace was in Christ not merely as in an individual, but also as 
in the Head of the whole Church, to whom all are united as members 
to a head, who constitute one mystical person, and hence it is that 
Christ's merit extends to others inasmuch as they are his members ; 
even as in a man the action of the head reaches in a manner to all his 
members, since it perceives not merely for itself alone, but for all 
the members." 2 

" The sin of an individual harms himself alone ; but the sm o 
Adam, who was appointed by God to be the principle of the whole 
nature, is transmitted to others by carnal propagation. So, too, the 
merit of Christ, who has been appointed by God to be^ the head of 
all men in regard to grace, extends to all his members." 3 

" As the sin of Adam reaches others only by carnal generation, 
so, too, the merit of Christ reaches others only by spiritual regenera- 
tion, which takes place in baptism ; wherein we are incorporated 
with Christ, according to Gal. iii 27 : as many of you as have been 
baptised in Christ have put on Christ ; and it is by grace that it is 
granted to man to be incorporated with Christ. And thus man's 
salvation is from Grace," 4 

" Christ's satisfaction works its effect in us inasmuch as we are 
incorporated with him as the members with their head, as stated 
above. Now the members must be conformed with their head. 
Consequently as Christ first had grace in his soul with bodily passi- 
bility, and through the Passion attained to the glory of immortality : 
so we likewise, who are his members, are freed by his Passion from 
all debt of punishment, yet so that we first receive in our souls the 
spirit of adoption of sons whereby our names are written down for the 
inheritance of immortal glory, while we yet have a passible and mortal 
body : but afterwards, being made conformable to the sufferings and 
death of Christ, we are brought into immortal glory, according to 
the saying of the Apostle, 5 and if sons , heirs also : heirs indeed of God, 
and joint heirs with Christ ; yet so if we suffer with him, that we 
may also be glorified with him." 6 

" Christ's voluntary suffering was such a good act, that because 
of its being found in human nature, God was appeased for every 
offence of the human race with regard to those who are made one 
with the crucified Christ in the aforesaid manner." 7 

" The head and members are as one mystic person ; and there- 

1 III, Q. xlix, art. i. 2 III, Q. xix, art. 4. 

3 III, Q. xix, art. 4, ad i. 4 III, Q. xix, art. 4, ad 3. 

5 Rom. viii 17. 6 III, Q. xlix, art. 3, ad 3. 
7 III, Q. xlix, art. 4. 


fore Christ's satisfaction belongs to all the faithful as being his 
members. Also in so far as any two men are one in charity, the one 
can satisfy for the other, as shall be shown later/' * " But the same 
reason does not hold good of confession and contrition, because the 
satisfaction consists of an outward action for which helps may be 
used, among which friends are to be computed." 2 

" As stated above, 3 grace was bestowed upon Christ, not only as 
an individual, but inasmuch as he is the Head of the Church, so that 
it might overflow into his members ; and therefore Christ's works 
are referred to himself and to his members in the same way as the 
works of any other man in a state of grace are referred to himself. 
But it is evident that whosoever suffers for justice' sake, provided 
that he be in a state of grace, merits his salvation thereby, according 
to Matt, v 10. Consequently Christ by his Passion merited salva- 
tion, not only for himself, but likewise for all his members." 4 

The fruits of the Redemption, therefore, are applied to individuals on Baptism 
inasmuch as they are incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, and incor- 
Now the means which Christ has instituted for this incorporation P ratwn 
are the sacraments, and in particular Baptism, the sacrament of 
regeneration. Hence in the teaching of St Thomas concerning this 
sacrament we are able to see again the far-reaching importance of the 
doctrine of the Mystical Body. 

" Since Christ's Passion," he writes, 5 " preceded as a kind of 
universal cause of the forgiveness of sins, it needs to be applied to 
each individual for the cleansing of personal sins. Now this is done 
by Baptism and Penance and the other sacraments, which derive 
their power from Christ's Passion." 

Even those who lived before the coming of Christ, and therefore 
before the institution of the sacrament of Baptism, needed, if they 
were to be saved, to become members of Christ's Mystical Body. 
" At no time could men be saved, even before the coming of Christ, 
unless they became members of Christ : c for there is no other name 
under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.' 6 Before 
Christ's coming men were incorporated into Christ by faith in his 
future coming, and the seal of that faith was circumcision." 7 

Treating the question whether a man can be saved without 
Baptism, St Thomas allows that where actual Baptism is absent 
owing to accidental circumstances, the desire proceeding from 
" faith working through charity " will in God's providence inwardly 
sanctify him. But where you have absence of actual Baptism and a 
culpable absence of the desire of Baptism, " those who are not 
baptised under such conditions cannot be saved, because neither 

1 Supplement, Q, xiii, art. 2. 

2 Q. xlviii, art. 2, ad i. 

3 Q. vii, art. i, ad 9 ; Q. viii, art. i, ad 5. 

4 Q. xlviii, art. i. 5 III, Q. xlix, art. i, ad 4. 

6 Acts iv 12. 7 Rom. iv n. Ill, Q. Ixviii, art. i, ad i. 


sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through 
whom alone comes salvation." l He emphasises the same truth 
when speaking of men who are sinners in the sense that they will to 
sin and purpose to remain in sin. These, he says, are not properly 
disposed to receive Baptism : " c For all of you who were baptised 
into Christ have put on Christ ' ; now as long as a man has the will 
to sin, he cannot be united to Christ : for what hath Justness in 
common with lawlessness.' " 2 

The reason why the effects of the Passion of Christ are applied 
to us in Baptism is that we are a part of Christ, we form one with 
him. " That is why the very pains of Christ were satisfactory for 
the sins of the baptised, even as the pains of one member may be 
satisfactory for the sins of another member." 3 Indeed, the effects 
of the Passion of Christ are as truly ours as if we had ourselves under- 
gone the Passion : " Baptism incorporates us into the Passion and 
death of Christ : * If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall 
also live together with Christ ' ; 4 whence it follows that the Passion 
of Christ in which each, baptised person shares is for each a remedy 
as effective as if each one had himself suffered and died. Now it 
has been seen that Christ's Passion is sufficient to make satisfaction 
for all the sins of all men. He therefore who is baptised is set free 
from all liability to punishment which he had deserved, as if he himself 
had made satisfaction for them." 5 Again, " the baptised person 
shares in the penal value of Christ's Passion as he is a member of 
Christ, as though he had himself endured the penalty." 6 " Accord- 
ing to St Augustine," he writes in article 4 of the same question, 
" * Baptism has this effect, that those who receive it are incorporated 
in Christ as his members/ Now from the Head which is Christ 
there flows down upon all his members the fulness of grace and of 
truth : * Of his fulness we have all received/ 7 Whence it is 
evident that Baptism gives a man grace and the virtues." 
Body and From this explicit teaching it is clear that there is only one Body 

Soul of the of Christ, and it is by Baptism that we are incorporated in it. Con- 
Churck sequently we must be very careful in using the well-known distinction 
of the " body " and " soul " of the Church. 

Every man validly baptised is a member of Christ's Mystical 
Body, is a member of the Church. Now it may well happen that 
adverse external circumstances may prevent a man's character as an 
incorporated member of the Church being recognised, and the 
absence of such recognition may involve the juridical denial of all 
that it involves. In the eyes of men he may appear to have broken 
the bond uniting him to the Church, and yet, because of the super- 
natural faith, and the persistent loving life of grace, whereby he 
seeks in all things to do the will of God, his union with the Church 

1 Rom. iv ii. Ill, Q. kviii, art. 2. 2 2 Cor. vi 14. 

3 III, Q. Ixviii, art. 5, ad i. 4 Rom. vi 8. 

5 Q. Ixix, art. 2. 6 Ibid., ad i. 7 John i 16. 


really continues : spiritually he remains a member of the Church, 
he belongs to the body of the Church. He may, all the time, through 
error, be giving his external adhesion to a religious society which 
cannot be part of the Church. But at heart, by internal and implicit 
allegiance, he may be a faithful member of the Church. 

Evidently, if the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, then to 
be outside the Mystical Body is to be outside the Church, and since 
there is no salvation outside the Mystical Body, there is no salvation 
outside the Church. But, as we have seen, a man's juridical situation 
is not necessarily his situation before God. 

The use of the term "the Soul " of the Church as distinct from 
" the Body," in the sense that Catholics belong to the Body and the 
Soul, and non-Catholics to the Soul only, and therefore may be 
saved because of their good faith, does indeed convey an element of 
truth, but not the whole of it. The continual stressing of the " good 
faith " of those who are unfortunately out of visible communion 
with us, does seem to undermine the traditional horror of heresy 
and of heretics, replacing it by a horror of " heresiarchs " ; it seems 
to put a premium on muddle-headedness, and to reserve the stigma 
of heresy for the clear-headed ones. After all, the malice of heresy 
lies in the rending of the Body of Christ : what our Lord meant to 
be one, heretics, even material heretics, divide. They may be in 
good faith and that good faith will at some moment lead them to 
see what they had not seen before but the fact remains that their 
error or ignorance, however inculpable, retards the edification of the 
Body of Christ. Even the claims of Charity should not blind us to 
the importance of growth in the knowledge of objective truth, as con- 
trasted with the limitations of error, however well-meaning it may be. 

In this matter the advice of St Paul to the Ephesians is relevant : 
" With all humility and mildness, with patience supporting one 
another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond 
of peace. One body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope 
of your calling. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism." x 

The notions of Redemption, Baptism, and the Mystical Body are 
combined by the Apostle in the following magnificent passage : 
" Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for her, that 
he might sanctify her, purifying her in the bath of water by means of 
the word, and that he might present her to himself a glorious Church, 
not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without 
blemish. . . , Surely no man ever hated his own flesh, nay, he 
doth nourish and cherish it, even as Christ the Church, because we 
are members of his body." 2 

1 Eph. iv 2 fF. 2 Eph. v 25-27, 29. 





The Mass 
the sacrifice 
of the 


THE Catholic doctrine of Redemption is inseparable from that of 
Sacrifice, for it was by his sacrifice on Calvary that Christ achieved 
our Redemption. " Christ, being come an high-priest of the good 
things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made 
with hands, that is, not of this creation : neither by the blood of goats 
or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the Holies, 
having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and 
of oxen . . . sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the 
flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy 
Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience 
from dead works, to serve the living God ? And therefore he is the 
Mediator of the New Testament : that by means of his death for 
the redemption of those transgressions which were under the former 
testament, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal 
inheritance." 1 

Such being the intimate connection between Redemption and 
Sacrifice in the economy of our salvation, 2 it is not to be wondered 
at if the doctrine of the Mystical Body finds its clearest illustration 
and most practical application in the Catholic teaching concerning 
the sacrifice of the Mass. 

The central fact of human history is the Redemption, wrought, 
in accordance with the divine plan, by the life-work of Christ, and 
culminating in the supreme act of self-oblation made by his human 
will in manifestation of his love of his Father. The sacrifice which 
Christ offered to his Father on the Cross is the one perfect act of 
worship ever offered by man to God. But Christians have never re- 
garded that sacrifice simply as an event of the past. They have been 
ever mindful of the command he gave his followers to do as he did in 
commemoration of him, " showing the death of the Lord until he 
come," 3 " knowing that Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth 
now no more, death shall have no more dominion over him." 4 
Christ as he is to-day is Christ triumphant with the fruits of his 
victory, with the faithful in whom his Spirit dwells and works. 
The same sacrifice which Christ offered on Calvary is unendingly 
renewed in the sacrifice of the Mass. The sacrifice is Christ's ; the 
victim is Christ ; the priest is Christ. The only difference lies in 
the absence of actual blood-shedding on the Calvary of the Altar. 
The Mass is the sacrifice of the Mystical Body of Christ. 5 

That the whole Church has a sacerdotal character is clear from 
several passages of the New Testament. Baptism, which made us 
sons of God, members of the Mystical Body, gave us an indelible 

1 Heb. ixn. 

2 See Essay xiv : Christ, Priest and Redeemer, passim. 

3 i Cor. xi 26. 4 Rom. vi 9. 

5 See Essay xxv in this volume : The Eucharistic Sacrifice. 


character : " But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, 
a holy nation. 7 ' * " Jesus Christ . . . who hath loved us and washed 
us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us a kingdom and 
priests to God and his Father." 2 " Be you also as living stones 
built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual 
sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." 3 Together with our 
Head, through the ministry of the priests who have the power of 
consecrating, we co-operate effectively in the offering of the sacrifice 
in the measure of our supernatural importance in the Mystical Body. 4 Christ, 

It would be a pitiable mistake to think of the Body and Blood Head and 
of Christ in the Mass as a dead offering. It is a living offering and is ^^f ^ 
offered by the living Christ. Christ is the priest of the Mass. It is sacrifice 
Christ who celebrates the Mass, and he celebrates it with a warm 
and living Heart, the same Heart with which he worshipped his 
Father on Mount Calvary. He prays for us, asks pardon for us, gives 
thanks for us, adores for us. As he is perfect man, he expresses 
every human feeling ; as he is God, his utterances have a complete 
perfection, an infinite acceptableness. Thus when we offer Mass 
we worship the Father with Christ's worship. Our prayers being 
united with his obtain not only a higher acceptance, but a higher 
significance. Our obscure aspirations he interprets ; what we do 
not know how to ask for, or even to think of, he remembers ; for 
what we ask in broken accents, he pleads in perfect words ; what we 
ask in error and ignorance he deciphers in wisdom and love. Thus 
our prayers, as they are caught up by his Heart, become transfigured, 
indeed, divine. 

Hence by God's mercy we do not stand alone. In God's provi- 
dence the weakness of the creature is never overwhelmed, unaided, 
by the omnipotence of God. In particular the Catholic is never 
isolated in his prayers, in his pleadings with God. He is a member 
of the divinely instituted Church, his prayers are reinforced by the 
prayers of the whole Church, he shares, in life and in death, in that 
amazing combination of grace-aided effort and accumulated energy 
known as the Communion of Saints. But especially is the Catholic 
strong when he pleads before God the perfect sacrifice of Christ. 
Simply as a member of the Church, as a member of Christ's Mystical 
Body, every Catholic has a share in the sacrifice offered by Christ as 
Head of his Church, a share in the supreme act of adoration thereby 
offered to God. And that partaking in the offering of the Sacrifice 
is as real and as far-reaching as is the Mystical Body itself. 

Christ, head and members, offers the sacrifice, but Christ, head Christ, 
and members, offers himself, and we, in union with our Head, a 
victims too. St Paul has told us that we are " heirs of God, and joint the 
heirs with Christ, if, that is, we suffer with him, that with him we 
may also be glorified." 5 We must share in his sufferings if we would 

1 i Peter ii 9. 2 Apoc. 15. 3 i Peter ii 5. 

4 Cf. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, pp. 902 ff. 5 Rom. viii 17. 


share in his salvation. And in his epistle to the Colossians, 1 St Paul 
stresses the importance of our privilege : " Now I rejoice in my 
sufferings on your behalf, and make up in my flesh what is lacking 
to the sufferings of Christ, on behalf of his body, which is the Church, 
whereof I am become a minister." So that as we are members of the 
one body, our sufferings, our prayers, our sacrifices, " may further 
the application to others of what Christ alone has secured for all." 2 
" The Church," says St Augustine, 3 " which is the body of which he 
is the head, learns to offer herself through him." " The whole re- 
deemed city, that is, the congregation and society of the saints, is the 
universal sacrifice which is offered to God by the High Priest." 4 

" I exhort you therefore, brethren," writes St Paul, 5 " by the 
compassion of God, to present your bodies a sacrifice, living, holy, 
well-pleasing to God, your spiritual service." Since we are members 
of Christ our sufferings, united with the offering of Christ, acquire 
a value in the carrying out of Christ's purpose in the world which 
they could never have of themselves. Our mortifications, our fast- 
ings, our almsdeeds are seen to have a range of effective influence in 
the Mystical Body, however trifling they may appear in themselves. 
The Lenten Fast is no mere personal obligation : the Church calls 
upon her children to do their share in furthering the interests of 
Christ in the world, insists that they should not be merely passengers 
in the barque of Peter, but should " pull their weight " ; for they 
too have benefited and are benefiting from the fastings and prayers 
of God's holy servants throughout the world. The call to reparation 
on behalf of others is bound up with the privileges we enjoy through 
our solidarity with our fellow-members of the Mystical Body. 

Every sacrifice is the external expression of an internal sacrificial 
sacrificial attitude of mind, whereby we submit all that we have and all that 
we are to ^ e divine wn % ^^ ^ n a ^ things it may be accomplished. 
In every sacrifice the victim is offered in place of him who offers it, 
as a means of expressing as adequately as possible the perfection of 
his submission to God. Now we have seen that our union as mem- 
bers of Christ's Mystical Body with the Victim offered to God in the 
Mass, unites us with our High Priest both as offerers and as offered. 
Hence, from our solidarity with the priesthood and the victimhood 
of Christ there follows as a necessary corollary the duty in Catholics 
of cultivating the sacrificial attitude of mind. 

When the pursuivants were thundering at the door of the house 
of Mr. Swithun Wells in Gray's Inn Lane on the morning of All 
Saints' Day, 1591, as the priest, Edmund Genings, stood at the im- 
provised altar and offered the Sacrifice of the Mass, there could 
be no mistake about the sacrificial attitude of mind of the small 
group of faithful present on that occasion. All had suffered for the 

1 i 24. 2 Lattey in loc. 3 De Civ. Dei, x 20. 

*Ibid. y 6. 5 Rom. xii i. 


privilege of worshipping God as he would be worshipped in his 
Church, and had refused to conform to the observances of the 
Established Church. With calm deliberation they took their lives 
and fortunes in their hands, and offered them up to God in union 
with the redeeming sacrifice of Christ himself. The working out 
of God's wiU was to them as mysterious as it is to us. But their 
duty to God was clear, and the danger they ran was clear ; but they 
commended themselves into the hands of God, and prayed that his 
will might be done. The spirit inspiring them shines out in Mr. 
Swithun Wells' reply when in prison he answered, " That he was not 
indeed privy to the Mass being said in his house, but wished that 
he had been present, thinking his house highly honoured by having 
so divine a sacrifice offered therein," and the Justice told him that 
though he was not at the feast, he should taste of the sauce. On 
10 December, 1591, he won the crown of martyrdom. 

If we compare the attitude of mind of the small group of devoted 
Catholics who were gathered round the martyr's altar with the 
attitude of those indifferent Catholics who under the most favourable 
conditions content themselves with deliberately conforming to the 
very minimum of the Church's requirements, we can see that there 
is room for many gradations in the intensity of the worship of God 
in the Holy Mass. Better perhaps than any technical definitions 
the example of our Catholic forefathers can teach the lesson so many 
of us have to learn. 

Our lives are spent in the midst of men who, however religious- 
minded they may be, have lost all idea of sacrificial worship : the 
Great Christian Act of Sacrifice is no longer the centre of their 
religious observance. At times one may wonder whether the influence 
of atmosphere does not affect the less-instructed of the faithful. 
Our people have a firm and deep belief in the Real Presence of Our 
Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but it often happens that they have 
a less clear perception of what the Sacrifice means. ,At times one 
hears the question, " Why is it that when Our Lord is already present 
in the Tabernacle, such a great manifestation of reverence should 
surround the Consecration ? " a question which shows how little it 
is realised that at the Consecration Our Lord comes offering himself 
as our Victim, bearing our sins, offering himself to his Eternal Father 
for us. Such a thought makes the Sacrifice real and living to us, 
and moves us to offer ourselves up with him, to be ready to suffer 
what we can for him who suffered and died for us. 


THE end of all sacrifice is union with God ; and the end of the Union with 
Sacrifice of the New Law is union with God through and in Jesus SU mmated~ 
Christ ; a union which is consummated by Holy Communion, by Holy 


wherein those who have offered the sacrifice partake of the sacred 
Victim. It is evident, therefore, that the Sacrament of the Eucharist, 
as well as the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Mass, is intimately bound up 
with the doctrine of the Mystical Body. In fact, the Eucharist is 
the Sacrament of the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Nature of How close this connection really is may be seen from the study 

this union O f t h ree well-known texts of the Gospel of St John : " Abide in 
me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless 
it abide in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I 
am the vine, you the branches ; he that abideth in me, and I in him, 
the same beareth much fruit, for without me you can do nothing." x 
" That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee ; 
that they alao may be one in us . . . / in them, and thou in me ; that 
they may be made perfect in one." 2 " Except you eat the flesh of 
the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you ; 
he that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting 
life. ... He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in 
me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by 
the Father ; so he that eateth me the same also shall live by me." 3 
The comparison of these three passages not only brings out in 
a striking manner the nature of the union that Christ wills should 
exist between himself and the faithful and among the faithful them- 
selves but also shows what Christ intends to be the primary and 
chief cause of that union. The union for which Christ prayed is 
a union of life, a communion of supernatural life, of the divine life 
of grace and charity, that union which, as we have seen, knits together 
the members of the Mystical Body, as the branches are united with 
the vine. It is a union so intimate that those who are united may 
be truly said to be in each other ; a union so close that Christ does 
not hesitate to compare it with the union existing between his Father 
and himself : " as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee." Now the 
union between Christ and his Father is a union of nature and life. 
" He that seeth me," he had said to Philip, " seeth the Father also. 
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me ? 
. . . Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more. But you 
see me ; because 1 live, and you shall live. In that day you shall 
know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. ... If 
any one love me ... my Father will love him, and we will come to 
him and make our abode with him." 4 The members of Christ, 
therefore, are united with their Head and with each other by the 
communication of the life of grace and charity, which, as St Peter 
tells us, is nothing else than a participation of the divine nature. 5 

1 xv 4-5. z xvii 21-23. 3 vi 54 ff. 4 John xiv 9 jff. 

5 Cf. 2 Peter i 4. Cf. also i John iv 7 : " Everyone that loveth is born 
of God and knoweth God " ; ibid., 15-16 : " Whosoever shall confess that 
Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God. ... He that 
abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him." 


What is the chief means whereby this life of grace is to be com- The 
municated to the members of his Body ? The answer is found in 
the third of the texts quoted above: "He that eateth my flesh Mystical 
and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him. As the living ^^ 
Father hath sent me and I live by the Father ; so he that eateth me, 
the same also shall live by me." The Sacrament of Our Lord's 
Body and Blood is the divinely appointed means for incorporation 
into his Mystical Body. The Eucharist, iix other words, is not only 
the Sacrament of Christ's true Body ; It is also the Sacrament of his 
Mystical Body. Hence St Paul writes : " The cup of blessing which 
we bless, is it not fellowship in the blood of Christ ? The bread 
which we break, is it not fellowship in the body of Christ ? We 
many are one bread, one body, for we all partake of the one bread." 
And commenting on these words of the Apostle St Augustine says : 
" The faithful know the body of Christ if they do not neglect to be 
the body of Christ. Let them become the body of Christ if they 
wish to live by the Spirit of Christ ; and therefore it is that St Paul, 
explaining to us the nature of this bread, says, * We being many are 
one bread, one body.' O sacrament of piety ! O symbol of unity ! 
O bond of charity ! He who wills to live has here the place to live, 
has here the source of his life. Let him approach and believe, let 
him be incorporated, that he may receive life." l " Be what you 
see," he writes elsewhere, 2 " and receive what you are. . . . He who 
receives the mystery of unity and does not hold the bond of peace, 
does not receive the mystery for his profit, but rather a testimony 
against himself." 

Hence also St Thomas, dealing with the sin of unworthy Com- 
munion, having pointed out that the Eucharist signifies the " Mystical 
body, which is the fellowship of the Saints," writes : " He who re- 
ceives this sacrament, by the \?ery fact of doing so signifies that he 
is united to Christ and incorporated in his members : now this is 
effected by charity-informed faith which no man can have who is 
in mortal sin. Hence it is clear that whosoever receives this sacra- 
ment in a state of mortal sin is guilty of falsifying the sacramental 
sign, and is therefore guilty of sacrilege." 3 

The intimate connection of the Sacrament of the Eucharist with The 
the Mystical Body may be clearly illustrated by the teaching of Qt^ harist 
Thomas on the necessity of the Eucharist for salvation. 4 It has been Baptism 
seen in a preceding section that Baptism is the Sacrament of in- 
corporation in the Mystical Body, and hence for infants the actual 
reception, and for adults at least the desire, of this sacrament is in- 
dispensable for salvation ; for outside the Mystical Body of Christ 
none can be saved. Now to assert that Incorporation is the proper 
effect of the Eucharist would seem at first sight to contradict the 

n.y tr. xxvi 13. 2 Sermon 272. 

3 III, Q. Ixxx, art. 9. 

4 See Essay xxxiv : The Sacrament of the Eucharist, pp. 877-879. 


undoubted truth that Baptism is the " gate of the Sacraments " and, 
alone, is necessary for salvation. St Thomas solves the difficulty 
by pointing out that the Eucharist is the source of the efficacy of all 
the other Sacraments, these being subordinated to the greatest of 
them all. " This Sacrament/' he writes, 1 " has of itself the power 
of bestowing grace ; nor does any one possess grace before receiving 
this sacrament except from some desire thereof ; from his own desire 
in the case of the adult ; or from the Church's desire in the case of 
children." If this desire in adults is a sincere one, as it should be, 
and the baptised person is faithful to the promptings of the Holy 
Spirit, he will complete what is expected of him and receive the 
Blessed Sacrament : 

" The effect of this sacrament is union with the Mystical Body, 
without which there can be no salvation ; for outside the Church 
there is no entry to salvation. . . . However, the effect of a sacra- 
ment can be had before the actual reception of the sacrament, from 
the very desire of receiving it ; hence before the reception of this 
sacrament a man can have salvation from the desire of receiving 
this sacrament. . . . From the very fact of being baptised infants are 
destined by the Church for the reception of the Eucharist, and just 
as they believe by the faith of the Church, so from the intention of 
the Church they desire the Eucharist, and consequently receive its 
fruit. But for baptism they are not destined by means of another 
preceding sacrament, and therefore before the reception of baptism 
infants cannot in any way have baptism by desire, but only adults. 
Hence infants cannot receive the effect of the sacrament (of baptism) 
without the actual reception of the sacrament. Therefore the 
Eucharist is not necessary for salvation in the same way as Baptism." 2 
And elsewhere : 3 " There are two ways of receiving this sacra- 
ment, namely, spiritually and sacramen tally. Now it is clear that all 
are bound to eat it at least spiritually, because this is to be incor- 
porated in Christ, as was said above (i.e., in the passage just quoted). 
Now spiritual eating comprises the desire or yearning for receiving 
the sacrament. Therefore a man cannot be saved without desiring 
to receive this sacrament. Now a desire would be vain, except it 
were fulfilled when opportunity presented itself." 

Union of the But it would be a mistake to regard the Eucharist as having its 
faithful effect merely in the individual soul that receives it. All that has 
been said hitherto about the solidarity of the members of Christ 
forbids any such restricted view. The Eucharist has far-reaching 
effects passing beyond the mere individual to the masterpiece of 
divine Love, the sanctification of mankind ; bringing all men under 
the Headship of Christ, uniting soul with soul, and souls with Christ, 
until all the elect in Heaven and in Purgatory are one in Christ with 
his faithful on earth ; so that all work together to achieve his Fulness : 

1 III, Q. Ixxix, art. i, ad. i. 

2 III, Q. Ixxiii, art. 3. 3 III, Q. Ixxx, art. 1 1. 


" for the perfecting of the Saints in the work of ministry, unto the 
building up of the body of Christ, till we all attain to the unity of 
the Faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to the perfect 
man, to the full measure of the stature of Christ . . . thus . . . we 
shall hold the truth in charity, and grow in all things unto him who 
is the Head, Christ." * 


THE term " Communion of Saints " seems to have been first inserted Meaning of 
in the baptismal creeds in the South of Gaul ; and it is to be under- the term 
stood as the South Gallic writers of the fifth and sixth centuries 
understood it ; giving the word " Saints " the normal meaning which 
it still holds to-day : the Elect, those who have attained the end for 
which they were made, in the Kingdom of God. The term " com- 
munion " is used in the abstract sense and means a spiritual benefit 
conferred in the Church, or the Mystical Body of Christ. " And so 
the addition ' the Communion of Saints ' signifies the inward spiritual 
union of the faithful as members of Christ's Mystical Body with the 
other members of this Body, especially the elect and perfectly just, 
whose participation in the heavenly kingdom of God is absolutely 
certain, and through whose intercessions help may be given to the 
faithful still wayfaring on earth." 2 

In venerating the Saints of God and especially the Mother of Veneration 
God, we give them due honour because of the supernatural excellence f */** 
we recognise in them as derived from God himself through the merits 
of Jesus Christ. It is therefore to the honour and glory of God that 
is ultimately directed all the veneration paid to his servants. Strictly 
speaking a like honour might be paid to saintly men and women 
while they are still living on this earth. It is, however, the custom 
of the Church not to venerate the just until she has declared by in- 
fallible decree that they are in definitive enjoyment of their eternal 
reward in heaven. In English we are accustomed to speak of 
" honouring " or " venerating " the Saints, while the cult of " adora- 
tion " is reserved for God alone. This distinction for the rest, a 
convenient one may be regarded as roughly corresponding to the 
Latin theological terms dulia : the honour paid to the Saints, and 
latria : the worship paid to God alone. 

Mary is particularly honoured because of the special greatness 
of the favours she received from God. She is what God made 
her, and as such we recognise her. All her graces on earth and her 
glory in heaven are celebrated in relation to her unique privilege : 
her Divine Maternity. By reason of her unique supernatural 

1 Eph. iv 12-15. 

9 Kirsch, The Doctrine of the Communion of Saints in the Ancient Church 
(Tr. McKea), 268. 


excellence the special veneration which we pay to her is called 
" hyperdulia." 

In honouring her and the Saints of God the Church would have 
us celebrate with veneration their holiness which they owe to the 
merits of Jesus Christ ; obtain their prayers which avail only in 
so far as by the divine ordinance they intercede in virtue of the grace 
they have received from Christ the Head of the Mystical Body, 
and in view of his merits ; and finally set before ourselves the example 
of their virtues, the exercise of which is due to the grace of God 
through which they were united to the Mystical Body, and so imi- 
tated the model of all virtues, Jesus Christ himself. The veneration 
of the Saints is thus directed to the glory of God, who is wonderful 
in his Saints, and therefore in his Saints is duly honoured. 

So eminently reasonable is this practice, so perfectly in accord 
with the doctrine of the Mystical Body, that we are not surprised 
to find that from the earliest times Catholics have paid honour to 
the Saints. We may see it especially in the commemoration of the 
Martyrs. Thus when Faustus the Manichean objected to the prac- 
tice St Augustine replied : " Faustus blames us for honouring the 
memory of the martyrs, as if this were idolatry. The accusation 
is not worthy of a reply. Christians celebrate the memory of the 
martyrs with religious ceremony in order to arouse emulation and 
in order that they may be associated with their merits and helped by 
their prayers. But to none of the martyrs do we erect altars as we 
do to the God of the martyrs ; we erect altars at their shrines. For 
what bishop standing at the altar over the bodies of the martyrs 
ever said c We offer to thee, Peter, or Paul, or Cyprian ? ' What is 
offered (i.e., the sacrifice) is offered to God who crowned the martyrs, 
at the shrines of the martyrs, so that the very spot may remind us to 
arouse in ourselves a more fervent charity both towards them, whom 
we can imitate, and towards him who gives us the power to do so. 
We venerate the martyrs with the same love and fellowship with 
which holy men of God are venerated in this life . . . but the 
martyrs we honour with the greater devotion that now, since they 
have happily gained the victory, we may with the greater confidence 
praise those who are blessed, in their victory than those who in this 
life are still striving for it." * 

Intercession With regard to the intercession of the Saints let it suffice to note 
Tsalnts w ^ ^ Thomas that " prayer may be offered to a person in two 

ways, either so that he himself may grant it, or that he may obtain 
the favour from another. In the first way we pray only to God, 
because all our prayers should be directed to obtaining grace and 
glory, which God alone gives, according to the Psalmist (83) : * The 
Lord will give grace and glory.' But in the second way we pray 
to the angels and Saints, not that through them God may know 
our petitions, but that through their prayers and merits our petitions 

1 Contra Faustum, 1. 20, c. 21. 


may be effective. Hence we read in the Apocalypse 1 that, ' the 
smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before 
God from the hand of the Angel.' And this is manifest also from 
the method which the Church uses in praying ; for we ask the 
Trinity to have mercy upon us ; but we ask the Saints to pray 
for us." 2 

Closely associated with the veneration of the Saints is the honour Relics and 
paid to their relics and images. The principle underlying the venera- ima s es 
tion of relics is thus set out by St Thomas : " It is manifest that we 
should show honour to the saints of God as being members of Christ, 
the children and friends of God and our intercessors. Wherefore 
in memory of them we ought to honour every relic of theirs in a 
fitting manner : principally their bodies which were temples and 
organs of the Holy Ghost dwelling and operating in them, and as 
destined to be likened to the body of Christ by the glory of the 
Resurrection. Hence God himself fittingly honours such relics by 
working miracles at their presence." 3 

A similar reason justifies the veneration of their images. The 
images recall the Saints to our minds, and the reverence we pay to 
them is simply relative, as the images themselves, considered materi- 
ally, have no virtue in them on account of which they should be 
honoured. The honour paid to them passes to the rational persons, 
the Saints, whom the images represent. The purpose of the practice 
is explained by the second Council of Nicaea in its decree concerning 
sacred images : " that all who contemplate them may call to mind 
their prototypes, and love, salute and honour them, but not with 
true * latria/ which is due to God alone. . . . For honour paid to 
the image passes to the prototype, and he who pays reverence to 
the image, pays reverence to the person it depicts." 4 

A final application of the doctrine of the Mystical Body may be Indulgences 
found in Indulgences. 5 The matter is explained by St Thomas as 
follows : 

" The reason why indulgences have value is the unity of the 
Mystical Body, in which many of the faithful have made satisfaction 
beyond what was due from them. They have borne with patience 
many unjust persecutions, whereby they might have expiated many 
temporal punishments if they had deserved them. The abundance 
of those merits is so great as to surpass all the temporal punishment 
due from the faithful on earth, and that particularly owing to the 
merit of Christ. That merit, although it operates in the Sacraments, 
is not limited to the Sacraments in its effectiveness : but its infinite 
value extends beyond the efficacy of the Sacraments. Now, as we 
have seen above, 6 one man can make satisfaction for another. On 

1 viii 4. 2 II, Ilae, Q. Ixxxiii, art. 4. 

3 III, Q. xxv, art. 2. 4 Denzinger, 302. 

5 Cf. Essay xxvii : The Sacrament of Penance, pp. 976-980. 

6 Q. xiii, art. 2. 


the other hand, the Saints, whose satisfactory works are super- 
abundant, did not perform them for some one particular person 
(otherwise without an indulgence he would obtain remission) but in 
general for the whole Church, according to the words of St Paul, 1 
4 I rejoice in my sufferings on your behalf, and make up in my flesh 
what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ, on behalf of his Body, 
which is the Church' And so these merits become the common 
property of the whole Church. Now the common property of a 
society is distributed to the different members of the society accord- 
ing to the decision of him who is at the head of the society. Con- 
sequently, as we should obtain the remission of the temporal punish- 
ment due to sin, if another had undertaken to make satisfaction on 
our behalf, so too do we obtain it when the satisfaction of another is 
applied on our behalf by him who has authority to do so." 2 


ONE of the most striking phenomena of the present development of 
the Church's life in the course of the last few years is the appeal 
made to the minds of the faithful by the doctrine of the Mystical 
Body. Books are being published in every tongue setting out its 
implications, especially in its bearing on the practice of frequent 
Communion, and of assisting at Mass. 

The time is ripe for it. For as far as the Church at large is 
concerned, Protestantism is of the past, however much it may linger 
on in these islands. It has left us a legacy for which future genera- 
tions will be grateful. The last four hundred years have witnessed 
a remarkable development in the working out and clear formulation 
of the revealed teaching concerning the Church, and more partic- 
ularly of the teaching concerning the visible headship of the Church. 
The great disadvantage of the controversial treatment of any doctrine 
is that it involves the stressing of the controverted point to a dis- 
proportionate extent, and there is a consequent lack of attention 
paid to other truths. Not that those other truths are entirely lost 
to sight the remarkable correlation of revealed truths, each in- 
volving and leading up to the others, which so impressed Newman, 
is sufficient to prevent such an oversight : but the truths which are 
not actually under discussion attract less attention and study, and 
consequently what is involved in them is not made fully explicit nor 
is the connection which actually does exist between them always 
clearly seen. 

Now Catholics and Protestants alike agree that Christ is the Head 
of the Church the struggle arose and has continued on the question 
as to whether the Pope, as Christ's Vicar on earth, was the visible 
Head of the Church. But even that argument was largely verbal : 
since the very constitution of the Church was in dispute, and the 

1 Col. i 24. * Summa TheoL, III, SuppL, Q. xxv, art. i. 


character of the Headship differed fundamentally as conceived by 
both sides. That point, however, remained in the background, and 
did not attract the attention it deserved. 

A second obstacle stood in the way of the development of the 
doctrine of Christ's Headship of the Mystical Body involving, as it 
does, the full Catholic doctrine of Sanctifying Grace. 

Baianism, Jansenism, and Cartesianism are all bound up with 
erroneous or heretical teaching concerning sanctifying grace. The 
influence of Cartesianism was particularly disastrous on the ^philo- 
sophical setting of Catholic teaching : its rejection of the distinction 
between substance and accidents cut away the basis of the traditional 
treatment of sanctifying grace and the virtues, and not a few 
eighteenth -century theologians took to the simple method of ignoring 
the supernatural accidents of the soul as mere mediaeval subtleties, 
and that unfortunate attitude of mind made its influence felt well 
into the nineteenth century. This statement admits of easy historical 
verification : consult the text-books in use in theological seminaries 
in the early nineteenth century and you will be amazed at the in- 
difference or, at least, the astonishing reserve with which the all- 
important doctrine of sanctifying grace is treated. Actual grace and 
all the interminable controversies to which it gave rise absorb all 
their energies. A sad practical result followed : the clergy being 
insufficiently instructed in these important doctrines were incapable 
of instilling them into the faithful, of bringing them to realise what 
the supernatural life is, and so were unable effectively to resist the 
onset of naturalism. The heavy penalty of this neglect is now being 
paid in many Catholic countries on the Continent. 

Fortunately, happier days have dawned. These anti-Protestant 
polemics, necessary as they may be, do not absorb all our energies, 
and the stimulating and consoling truths of our supernatural life 
and destiny are being studied more and more, so that we may hope 
for a fuller development of the truths involved in Christ's Headship 
of his Mystical Body. 

We know that the Church is a perfect society ; we analyse all 
that that statement involves, we realise the Church's complete and 
entire independence of the State within her own sphere. We have 
defended every detail of her visible organisation against non- 
Catholic assault. But let us be on our guard against imagining that 
because we have grasped every element of her visible and of her 
moral constitution which Christ willed should be in order that his 
Church might utilise all that is best in man's human nature that 
we understand Christ's Church through and through. For there 
still remains the most potent element of all in the supernatural 
constitution of the Church, that divine, all-pervading, all-guiding 
and directing influence interiorly exercised by Christ upon every 
individual member, and upon all the members collectively, bringing 
the individual soul into harmony with himself, and with all faithful 


souls, so that, as St Paul wrote to the Ephesians : x " We may in 
all things grow up in him, who is the Head, even Christ. From 
whom the whole Body, being compacted and fitly joined together, 
by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the 
measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying 
of itself in charity." . 

We have to strive to realise more vividly Christ's living influence 
in the world to-day, and the need in which we stand of it, to realise, 
too, the wonderful way in which Our Lord meets this need by making 
us, and preserving us as members of his Church, members of that 
Mystical Body of which he is the Head. 


1 iv 15-16. 



THE purpose of this essay is to give a brief but comprehensive outline 
of the nature and constitution of the community of believers founded 
by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Christian Society with which the 
Catholic and Roman Church affirms her substantial identity. What 
is chiefly aimed at is not an apologetic defence of the Church, or even 
a direct vindication of her claims against those who would challenge 
them, but to explain the import which Catholics themselves attach 
to the words of the Creed : Credo in . . . unam sanctam catholicam 
et apostolicam Ecclesiam. The sources for such an exposition are 
the official pronouncements of the Church herself, as formulating 
the deliverances of Scripture and Tradition. Accordingly these will 
be generously drawn upon, personal comment and reflection being 
reduced to a minimum. Among the documents of the Church's 
teaching authority, Pope Pius XIFs great Encyclical Mystici Corporis 
Christi I now holds a place of first importance : it is a magisterial 
restatement of traditional doctrine in the face of the divided Christen- 
dom in which we live, and should clarify much of the contemporary 
confusion about the nature of the Church. From this treatise, for 
it is nothing less, the following pages draw their main inspiration. 
The preceding essay has dealt with " The Mystical Body of Christ " 
considered in its inner life. Here we shall be concerned to show, 
what is in fact one of the objects of the Encyclical, how the inner 
mystery of the Mystical Body is inseparably linked with the concrete 
juridical structure of the Catholic Church. 




THE Church of Christ did not come suddenly into existence, un- Remote 
heralded and unannounced, during the lifetime of our Lord. \i origins of. the 
has its roots deep in the past, not only in the previous history of 
Judaism, but in the remote origins of the human race, when Adam 

1 29 June, 1943. All references are to the marginal numbers in Canon 
G. D. Smith's translation for the Catholic Truth Society. 



fell from grace and with him his whole progeny. Our first parents 
were not, however, left without the hope of ultimate redemption ; 
the evil one who had compassed their downfall would finally be 
crushed ; * someone was to restore what was lost and, as we gather 
from subsequent prophecy, a new people would be born endowed 
with a life of undreamt of fulness. The connection which exists 
between the Church and the sinful state of man, due to Adam's 
disobedience, is of capital importance to understand, for it provides 
the key to the Church's raison d'etre. Just as there is little evidence 
to suggest that the Son of God would have become incarnate had 
Adam not offended, so the Catholic Church as we know it would 
never have appeared in history but for man's being cut off from 
God, and at odds with his fellows, through the primal disaster of 

The fact of Nevertheless, " where sin abounded, grace did more abound." 2 
5171 Sin has worked itself out in all manner of rebellion and human 

selfishness, but its first result, so far as Adam was concerned, was 
to deprive him of that state of holy innocence and integrity which 
he was intended to transmit to posterity. The sons of Adam were 
thereby robbed of God's adoptive sonship and the participation in 
the divine nature which should have been theirs and became instead 
" children of wrath." 3 This was the calamity which, first and fore- 
most, Christ came to undo. 4 The Son of the Eternal Father took 
to himself a human nature, innocent and stainless, becoming as it 
were a " second Adam " ; for from him the grace of the Holy Spirit 
was to flow into all the children of our first parent. Through the 
Incarnation of the Word men would regain their lost inheritance, 
become brethren according to the flesh of the only begotten Son of 
God, and so themselves receive the power to become the sons of 
God. Thus, by the great redemptive act on the Cross, not only 
was the Father's outraged justice placated, but an immense treasury 
of graces was merited for us, his kindred. These heavenly gifts 
might have been bestowed upon us directly ; but God's plan was 
that they should be distributed by means of a visible Church in which 
we, being united together, should co-operate with him in his re- 
demptive work. " As the Word of God vouchsafed to use our nature 
to redeem men by his pains and torments, in a somewhat similar 
way he makes use of his Church throughout the ages to perpetuate 
the work he had begun." 5 

Mankind, broken away by its own act from its Creator and Lord, 
bereft of a divine inheritance, turned in upon itself, no longer united 
but disintegrated and atomised, each man for himself and no man 
for his brother such was the tragic state of things from which Christ 
came to set us free. And, in this very act of liberation, he restored 

1 Genesis iii 15. 2 Romans v 20. 3 Ephesians ii 3. 

4 Cf. Encyclical My slid Corporis Christi (hereinafter designated MCC), 
12. 5 Ibid. 


what was lost and raised us to a supernatural destiny surpassing in 
splendour all human conception. " For God so loved the world, 
as to give his only begotten Son : that whosoever believeth in him 
may not perish, but may have life everlasting." 1 Nor did he will 
to bring salvation simply by his physical presence on earth, to serve 
as a gracious memory for the ages to come ; or even by the great 
act of redemption achieved on the Cross, considered as a climax to 
a life to which there was to be no sequel. The Second Person of the 
Blessed Trinity was to remain united to humanity, and his saving 
work continue, until the end of time. There was never again to be 
a day when man should find himself in the condition of " having no 
hope of the promise and without God in this world." 2 The human 
race was to be transformed, born anew, integrated and reunited to 
God through the Church. 

By the Incarnation a single human nature was taken up into union The Incar- 
with God in the Person of Christ our Lord. Jesus is the Son of God nation 
by nature. The manhood of Christ is perfect and undiminished ; 
but in Person he is none other than the Word of God himself. But 
he is also " the firstborn amongst many brethren " ; 3 he wills that, 
so far as may be, we should share his divine sonship. Whereas he 
is the Son of God by nature, we are meant to become the sons of 
God by adoption. It was to enable us to be admitted as it were into 
his family that he lived and died. " But as many as received him, 
he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that 
believe in his name." 4 The plan he devised for carrying out this 
project was to continue the Incarnation through the centuries ; not 
simply in its effects but, so to say, in its very substance. This pro- 
longation of the Incarnation is but another name for the Church. 
So we find the great incarnational principle viz., the pouring out 
upon the world of what is divine and spiritual through the medium 
of material elements verified in every aspect of the Church's life. 

From this we should be able to understand why the Holy, The Mystical 
Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, to employ her official title, ^^ 
rejoices in proclaiming herself " the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ." 5 
For she is animated by his life, co-operates with him, declares his 
message and distributes the fruits of his redemption ; in a very real 
sense she suffers with him, just as -one day she will triumph with 
him, when her supreme task of perpetuating his work throughout 
the ages has been accomplished. 


THE Mystical Body, which is the Church, took its rise from the death The Church 
of Christ on Calvary. " By his death on the Cross he made voidj^j 
the Law with its decrees and fastened the handwriting of the Old O f Christ 

1 John iii 16. 2 Ephesians ii 12. 

3 Romans viii 29. * John i 12. 6 MCC 13. 


Testament to the Cross, establishing the New Testament in his 
blood which he shed for the whole human race." x So centuries 
before it had been foretold ; so in fact it was fulfilled. 2 By the In- 
carnation itself our Lord had become Head of the whole human 
family ; but it is in virtue of his saving death that he exercises in all 
its fulness his Headship of the Church. 3 " It was by the victory of 
the Cross that he merited power and dominion over all nations." 4 
All the graces which through the centuries were to be poured out 
upon the Mystical Body were won for it by this supreme act of atone- 
ment. At that moment the Church, like a second Eve, a new 
" mother of all the living," 5 was born from the Saviour's side. 
Three sue- But without prejudice to Christ's sacrificial death as being the 

cessive stages decisive factor, we may yet distinguish three stages in the formation 
formation of of tne Mystical Body. Though the Church, as a juridical institution, 
the Church had no proper existence before the death of Christ, nevertheless, 
during his public ministry, he had outlined its constitution, described 
what were to be its functions and powers, and prepared the organs 
through which these were to be exercised. " For while he was ful- 
filling his function as preacher he was choosing his Apostles, send- 
ing them as he had been sent by the Father, 6 that is to say, as 
teachers, rulers and sanctifiers in the community of believers ; he 
was designating him who was to be their chief, and his own Vicar 
on earth ; 7 he was making known to them all the things which he 
had heard from the Father ; 8 he was prescribing Baptism 9 as the 
means by which believers would be engrafted into the Body of the 
Church ; and finally, at the close of his life, he was instituting at 
the Last Supper the admirable sacrifice and the admirable sacrament 
of the Eucharist." 10 

This preparatory work, as we have said above, was ratified by the 
redemptive act on the Cross. At that moment " the veil of the 
Temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom," X1 the Old 
Law was abolished and the Messianic Kingdom on earth came into 
being. The Church, thus brought to birth, was, so to say, formally 
constituted on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit animated 
the organism of the Mystical Body, infusing each of its organs with 
his own power and endowing the whole with life, vigour and abiding 

Thus, within the limits of the New Testament writings, we can 
discover three successive states of Christ's Church : (a) an in- 
choative, or initial period, during the lifetime of its Founder, when 

1 MCC 28. 2 Cf. Hebrews viii 8 ff. 

3 Cf. MCC 29. 

4 St Thomas, Summa Theologica, III, Q. xlii, art. I. 

5 Genesis iii 20. 6 John xvii 18. 

7 Matthew xvi 18-19. 8 John xv 15 ; xvii 8, 14. 

9 John iii 5. * MCC 26. 

11 Matthew xxvii 51. 


he announced and prepared the Kingdom of God ; 1 (b) its founda- 
tion, beginning with the death of Jesus, by which the Old Law was 
done away with and the new Messianic Kingdom, the Church, in- 
stituted ; (c) its definitive existence with the coining of the Holy 
Spirit at Pentecost when the Church, both as a collectivity and in 
its individual members, became instinct with divine power, and 
began as a social organism the new life which was to continue " even 
to the consummation of the world." 2 


" RATHER we hold the truth in charity, and grow in all things unto Christ the 
him who is the Head, Christ. From him the whole body, welded Head of 
and compacted together by means of every joint of the system, part Ghurch 
working in harmony with part (from him) the body deriveth its 
increase, unto the building up of itself in charity." 3 

We shall now pass briefly in review the chief points of the 
Catholic doctrine concerning the relationship between Christ and 
the Church, 4 and consider in greater detail (below, VIII) the 
manner irx which his Headship is exercised through his Vicar, or 
visible representative, the Pope, who, together with the Bishops, 
rules the juridical society which is the Church on earth. 

It will help us to understand how Christ is the Head of the 
Church if we paraphrase St Thomas's teaching on the point. 5 As 

1 The notion of " the Kingdom (perhaps, more accurately, the Rule) of 
God " is extremely rich. We find three aspects of it foreshadowed in the 
prophetical teaching : (i) a Kingdom that was national and at the same time 
universal ; reigning over Israel as his chosen people, God was to extend the 
Kingdom to the Gentiles ; (ii) a spiritual Kingdom in which the moral 
qualities of justice and peace were to flourish ; (iii) an eschatological King- 
dom, in the sense that its perfection was to come after a judgement in which 
the wicked were to be separated from the just. In continuity with, and de- 
velopment of, this doctrine, our Lord announced a Kingdom that was to be 
(i) no longer national but universal, embracing all peoples and times ; 
(ii) external and social, but at the same time internal and spiritual ; (iii) 
present, but also future and eschatological, when the good should be separated 
from the bad. We may note, for it is sometimes overlooked, that theologians 
do not identify tout court the Catholic Church with the Kingdom of God. 
The Church is the Kingdom of God on earth. Cf. Schultes, De Ecdesta 
Catholica, p. 41 : " Nevertheless the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e. of God) and 
the Church founded upon Peter are not wholly identical. For the Church 
founded on Peter belongs to this world and this life : for it is founded on 
Peter, a mortal and terrestrial man, who will bind and loose * on earth ' ; 
but the Kingdom of Heaven will exist when time is at an end and for all 

2 Matthew xxviii 20. 

8 Ephesians iv 15-16 (Westminster Version). 

4 Briefly, because the matter, which is of paramount importance, has 
been dealt with more fully elsewhere. See Essay xix, pp. 667 ff. 

5 Summa Theologica, III, Q. viii, art. i, " Utrum Christus sit caput 

Christ's in- 
fluence upon 
the Church 

His love for 
the Church 


the whole Church is one Mystical Body by a similitude with man's 
natural body, each of whose members has its appropriate activity 
(as St Paul teaches in Romans xii and i Corinthians xii), so Christ 
is called the Head of the Church by a parallel with the human head. 
This Headship may furthermore be considered under three aspects, 
viz., from the point of view of order, perfection and power. To 
take the first, order : we note that, beginning with what is highest, 
the head is the principal part of a man ; it is thus that we call the 
source or origin of anything its " head." Considered in this way, 
Christ has the chief place, by reason of his soul's nearness to God ; 
he is pre-eminent in God's grace to such a degree that all others 
receive grace in virtue of his. This is what is implied in St Paul's 
words : " For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made 
conformable to the image of his Son : that he might be the firstborn 
amongst many brethren." x Secondly, in the hierarchy of perfec- 
tion : St Thomas points out that, whereas in the head we find located 
all the interior and exterior senses, in the other parts of the body 
there is only the sense of touch. Similarly in Christ, as distinct 
from the inferior members of the Mystical Body, we find the fulness 
and perfection of grace. 2 Finally, with reference to power : just 
as the control of the other parts of the body resides in the head, so 
Christ rules over the Church's members by the influence of grace. 
" And of his fulness we all have received." 3 

In virtue of this pre-eminence our Lord " reigns in the minds and 
hearts of men, bending and constraining even rebellious wills to 
his decrees." 4 He takes charge both of the individual soul, by 
reason of his intimate presence within it, and of the whole Church, 
enlightening and strengthening her rulers in the faithful discharge 
of their high office. It is by his power that the fruits of holiness 
are brought forth in the Church, as made manifest in the lives of 
the saints, with a view to " the building up of the body of Christ." 6 
Whenever sin is resisted, whenever a soul grows in holiness, whenever 
the Church administers her sacramental rites, " it is he himself who 
chooses, determines, and distributes graces to each ' according to 
the measure of the giving of Christ.' " 6 

Of Christ's love for the Church it should be almost superfluous 
to speak, for it is but another aspect of his love for redeemed humanity. 
" Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the saviour of his body." 7 
In the illuminating words of Pius XII : "the loving knowledge with 
which the divine Redeemer has pursued us from the first moment 
of his Incarnation is such as completely to surpass all the searchings 
of the human mind ; for by means of the beatific vision, which he 
enjoyed from the time he was received into the womb of the Mother 

1 Romans viii 29. 2 Cf. John i 14. 

3 John i 1 6. 4 MCCs7. 

5 Ephesians iv 13 (Westminster Version). 

6 Ibid, iv 7 ; MCC 49. 7 Ephesians v 23. 


of God, he has for ever and continuously had present to him all the 
members of his mystical body, and embraced them with his saving 
love." * Nor does that love ever grow less ; our Saviour continues 
his redeeming work from his state of heavenly glory : " Our Head," 
says St Augustine, " makes intercession for us ; some members he 
receives, some he scourges, some he cleanses, some he consoles, 
some he creates, some he calls, some he calls again, some he 
corrects, some he renews." 2 

Moreover, as the greatest pledge of this love, Christ has given The Holy 
us his own Spirit, the Paraclete, to be the life-force, the very " soul " Spirit and the 
of the Mystical Body. Again, it is impossible to state this doctrine church 
more clearly than in the words of Pope Pius XII. Speaking of " the 
Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who in a 
special manner is called the * Spirit of Christ ' or the ' Spirit of the 
Son,' " 3 he continues, " For it was with this Spirit of grace and 
truth that the Son of God adorned his soul in the Virgin's im- 
maculate womb ; he is the Spirit who delights to dwell in the 
Redeemer's pure soul as in his favourite temple ; he is the Spirit 
whom Christ merited for us on the Cross with the shedding of his 
own blood ; the Spirit whom he bestowed upon the Church for 
the remission of sins, breathing him upon the Apostles. 4 And while 
Christ alone received this Spirit without measure, 5 it is only accord- 
ing to the measure of the giving of Christ and from the fulness of 
Christ himself that he is bestowed upon the members of the Mystical 
Body. 6 And since Christ has been glorified on the Cross his Spirit 
is communicated to the Church in abundant outpouring, in order 
that she and each of her members may grow daily in likeness to our 
Saviour. It is the Spirit of Christ which has made us adopted sons 
of God, 7 so that one day ' we all, beholding the glory of the Lord 
with open face, may be transformed into the same image from glory 
to glory.' " 8 

Where love does not find a likeness it tends to create it. So it is The Church 
with the union between Christ and the Church. The Word, in taking g^ 
flesh, assumed our human nature ; this he did in order that his 
brethren according to the flesh might be made " partakers of the 
divine nature." 9 We were to be made conformable to the image of 
the Son of God, 10 renewed according to the likeness of him who 
created us. 11 Thus all Christians have as the object of their lives the 
imitation of Christ, the shaping of their thought and conduct in 
response to his Spirit. So, in fact, the Church, as Christ's Mystical 

2 Enarr., in Ps. Ixxxv 5, Migne, P. L. xxxvi, 1085; quoted from 
MCC 57- 

3 Romans viii 9 ; 2 Corinthians iii 17 ; Galatians iv 6. 

4 Cf. John xx 22. 5 Cf. John iii 34. 

6 Cf. Ephesians i 18 ; iv 7. 7 Cf. Rom. viii 14-17 ; Gal. iv 6-7. 

8 2 Cor. iii 18 ; MCC 54. 9 2 Peter i 4. 

10 Cf. Rom. viii 29. " C/. Col. iii 10 ; vide MCC 44. 


Body, models her life upon his. " Following in the footsteps of her 
divine Founder, she teaches, governs and offers the divine sacrifice. 
Again, when she practises the evangelical counsels she portrays in 
herself the poverty, the obedience, and the virginity of the Redeemer. 
And again the manifold Orders and institutions in the Church so 
many jewels with which she is adorned show forth Christ in various 
aspects of his life : contemplating on the mountain, preaching to 
the people, healing the sick, bringing sinners to repentance, and doing 
good to all. No wonder, then, that during her existence on this 
earth she resembles Christ also in suffering persecutions, insults and 
tribulation." * 

Co-operation Finally there follows, as a consequence, the need for co-operation 
between Head fe^ Head and mem bers. The Bridegroom and the Bride, 
ana members . , .__ , , r i /~\ T i 

which is the Church, must be of one mind. Our .Lord invites in 

a sense, he needs our working together with him in the building up 
of the Mystical Body. We could not have affirmed a truth so auda- 
cious were it not for St Paul's reminder that the head of the body 
cannot say to the feet " I have no need of you." 2 That we depend 
utterly upon Christ our Head is clear enough : " Without me you 
can do nothing." 3 But he has also condescended to make us joint- 
agents with him in the carrying out of the great redemptive plan. 
" By one and the same means," says Clement of Alexandria, " we 
both save and are saved." 4 God need not have arranged it thus ; 
for he lacks nothing of self-sufficiency ; but in the divine liberality 
of One who " emptied himself, taking the form of a servant," 5 he 
has chosen this method for the greater glory of his Church. 

The most striking example of this co-operation with Christ is 
the part played by the Blessed Virgin in. man's redemption. " She, 
the true Queen of Martyrs, by bearing with courageous and confident 
heart her immense weight of sorrows, more than all Christians filled 
up * those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, for his 
Body which is the Church.' " 6 Within the sphere of Church 
government our Lord's appointment of a Vicar, or representative, 
on earth is a conspicuous witness to his design of delegating divine 
responsibility to a merely human agent. But, even in his personal 
capacity of direct and invisible ruler of the Church, Christ has 
honoured us by requiring our co-operation. " Dying on the Cross, 
he bestowed upon his Church the boundless treasure of the Re- 
demption without any co-operation on her part ; but in the dis- 
tribution of that treasure he not only shares this work of sanctification 
with his spotless Bride, but wills it to arise in a certain manner out 
of her labour. This is truly a tremendous mystery, upon which we 
can never meditate enough : that the salvation of many souls depends 
upon the prayers and voluntary mortifications offered for that in- 

1 MCC 45. 2 i Cor. xii 21. John xv 5. 

4 Strom, vii 21. Migne P.O. IX, 413 ; quoted from MCC 57. 
8 Phil, ii 7. Col. i 24 ; MCC 1 10. 


tention by the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, and 
upon the co-operation which pastors and faithful, and especially 
parents, must afford to our divine Saviour." * 


" FOR as in one body we have many members, but all the members Diversity of 
have not the same office : so we, being many, are one body in Christ if unction 
and every one members one of another." 2 The oneness of the 
Church does not consist in a universal sameness but, as we might 
have expected in a creation so beautiful as to merit the title of " Bride 
of Christ/' 3 in a manifestation of unity in variety. There is subor- 
dination of function, diversity of office. This is most clearly to be 
seen in the doctrinal, sacrificial and juridical work of the Church, 
wherein she inherits our Lord's triple role of prophet, priest and king. 
It is evident also in the grades of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, bishops, 
priests and deacons, lawfully exercising their power of orders in 
virtue of their communion with the Pope, Vicar of Christ and suc- 
cessor to St Peter. But the rich and manifold life of the Mystical 
Body has multifarious patterns. Members of the religious orders 
and congregations, whether contemplative or active, or aiming at 
an apostolate which issues from contemplation, testify to its abundant 
fruitfulness. So too do the Catholic laity, more especially in their 
work of co-operation with the pastors of the Church. There are 
states of life holier than others : the episcopate, for example, as 
compared with the condition of the layman in the world ; likewise 
do the religious vows offer to a select few instruments of perfection 
which are denied to the majority. But, in the last resort, " the Spirit 
breatheth where he will " ; 4 the ultimate criterion is not official 
status but the measure of charity in the individual soul. 5 By this 
test the mother of a family may be more closely united to God than 
Pope or Bishop, a man or woman immersed in " worldly " duties than 
the monk or cloistered nun. 

" To every one of as is given grace, according to the measure of 
the giving of Christ." 6 Thus there is a profound mystery, as well 
as a natural fittingness, in the variety of place and function proper 
to each member of the Mystical Body. We do not know, or, at best, 

1 MCC 42. Canon Smith, p. 13 in his C.T.S. pamphlet Some Reflections 
on the Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi y has pointed out how Pius XII 
" condemns a quietism which attributes all activity exclusively to the grace 
of God (MCC 86) and on no fewer than ten occasions insists upon the 
necessity of our energetic co-operation " ; viz. 13, 16, 17, 42, 59, 85, 86, 88, 
97, 98. Very strikingly, on the subject of reunion, the Pope himself asks 
for the co-operation of the faithful, " that most effective aid," to the end that 
" all of us may be one in the one Church which Jesus Christ founded " ; 
Encyclical Orientalis Ecclesiae Decus, 9 April 1944. C.T.S. translation Rome 
and the Eastern Churches, 39-40. 

2 Rom. xii 4-5. 8 Cf. Apocalypse xxi 1-6 ; xxii 17. 

4 John iii 8. 6 Cf. i Cor. xiii. 6 Ephesians iv 7. 


can but dimly discern the role for which we are cast ; hence we have 
no material for passing judgement on one another, still less for 
mutual jealousy. St Paul was at pains to make this clear : " God 
hath set the members, every one of them, in the body as it hath 
pleased him." l A fact which provides us with the chief motive 
for neighbourly charity. We are being invited to rejoice in, to show 
good will towards, our neighbour simply for being what he is and 
doing what he does. Our evil actions apart, we each make our dis- 
tinctive contribution by being our own best selves and behaving 
accordingly. The doctrine of the Mystical Body excludes any en- 
forced or rigid conformity to a single pattern. It teaches us to appre- 
ciate other people in their very differences from ourselves ; we are 
left with no grounds for assessing the worth of others, as we are all 
too prone to do, merely by our own individual standards. 
The The vital channels of this life of grace and charity are the Sacra- 

Sacraments m ents of the Church. These visible signs, effecting what they signify, 
minister to our spiritual needs progressively from the cradle to the 
grave. By Baptism we are reborn from the death of sin into the 
living membership of Christ's Body, the Church, and invested with 
a spiritual power enabling us to receive the other sacraments. 
Through Confirmation we are strengthened in the faith and gain 
spiritual maturity ; it has been well described as " the sacrament of 
Catholic action," as it fits us to defend the Church, conferring on us 
the privileges and duties of a soldier of Jesus Christ. To enable us 
to recover from the sins into which we may have fallen after Baptism 
we have been given the sacrament of Penance. Supreme among 
them all is the Eucharist, the sacrament par excellence of the Mystical 
Body, whereby we are continually nourished and united ever more 
closely with its Head. Lastly, to console us in mortal sickness, there 
is the comfort of Extreme Unction, Sometimes, if God so wills, 
it effects the restoration of bodily health ; always it ministers a super- 
natural balm to the wounded soul and prepares it for entry into 

So much for our needs as individuals. For the benefit of the 
Church's social life our Lord instituted the two sacraments of 
Matrimony and Holy Order. Through the first the parties in 
marriage minister to each other the graces needful for their state. 
By this means is sanctified the whole process by which the Christian 
community gathers increase. The mutual love between man and 
wife is raised to the supernatural level of divine charity and the wel- 
fare of their offspring, especially in regard to that religious education 
which is of such moment to the growth of the Mystical Body, is 
safeguarded. Holy Order, finally, " consecrates to the perpetual 
service of God those who are destined to offer the Eucharistic Victim, 
to nourish the flock of the faithful with the Bread of Angels and with 
the food of doctrine, to guide them by the divine commandments 

1 1 Cor. xii 1 8 ; but see whole passage 14-21 and 27. 


and counsels, and to fortify them by their supernatural functions." * 
Thus the whole sacramental system is designed to ensure the pros- 
perity of the Mystical Body on earth, to enable it to grow and gather 
strength " unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ." 2 


JUST as all men of good will who came into contact with our Lord The Church 
were able to know him for what he was, the Son of the living God, 3 a ti>le 
so it must be equally possible for them to recognise his Church as society 
a divine institution. For the claims of the Church upon the world's 
attention are no less imperative than those of Christ himself. Indeed 
it is the Church's boast that she is, in her very constitution, " a 
perpetual motive of credibility and unassailable witness to her own 
divine mission." 4 Whence it follows that she must be a society 
visible to all as an unmistakable concrete fact. Not that we shall 
be led to expect the sort of visibility proper to a building or land- 
scape ; rather must we look for certain marks or notes characteristic 
of the Church whereby she can be clearly and definitely apprehended 
by the mind for what she is. Thus, for example, when we hear of 
a book entitled " The History of the English People," though it 
may suggest to the imagination no very clear-cut picture, we know 
that its subject-matter is nothing vague and intangible ; it is a reality 
as intelligible in its own order, as susceptible of scrutiny, as anything 
which comes within the range of sense observation. So it is with the 
Church. She is " a city seated on a mountain," 5 challenging men's 
gaze, proclaiming her own authenticity to those who will pause to 

Curiously enough, this claim of the Church to be a visible society Hostility to 
has proved a stumbling-block to many. In the Middle Ages the this doctrine 
Fraticelli thought they had discovered two Churches, one " carnal," 
the other " spiritual," while Wycliff and the Hussites vigorously 
opposed the notion of a Church that could be visible. In the same 
line of thought lies Luther's restriction of the Church to the Com- 
munion of Saints, and Calvin's to the number of the predestined. 
All these theories were devised to justify the repudiation of traditional 
Christianity as embodied in Catholicism. Analogous to them is the 
modern antithesis between " the religion of authority " and " the 
religion of the spirit " ; likewise the familiar distinction drawn by 
idealists between the " institutional " and " mystical " elements in 

It is not to our present purpose to discriminate the amount of The Church 

truth which lies concealed in these fundamental aberrations. && and mysti- 

1 MCC 19. 2 Ephesians iv 13. 3 Cf. Matt, xvi 16. 

4 Vatican Council : Constitution de fide catholica, cap. 3 ; Denzinger, 
1794. 5 Matt, v 14. 


heresy is an isolating of a part of the Christian inheritance and setting 
it in opposition to the whole, a principle which is conspicuously 
verified in every attempt to concentrate attention on the hidden 
riches of the Church to the exclusion of what is visible. But it is 
worth remarking that there is an all but ineradicable tendency in 
certain minds, not least among the loftier and more intellectual, to 
show devotion, to the spiritual by contempt for the material. The 
Manichean dualism, reproduced in a different form in the Platonic 
and neo-Platonic philosophical tradition, which has deeply influenced 
sections of Christian thought, bears striking witness to this. There 
is evidence of it also in the widespread^ contemporary interest in 
" mysticism," as divorced from Christian faith and worship. The 
neo-mystics professedly inveigh against " established Christianity," 
which is alleged to have " failed," but in fact their revolt is against 
the Incarnation itself. Now, as to the intellectuals in St Paul's 
day, the notion of a God who so loved sinners as to identify himself 
with them in visible humanity is " foolishness." 1 

The Catholic Church, though she gives scope to the highest 
aspirations of mysticism, provided it is based on an acknowledgement 
of sin and the need for salvation, is concerned with the eternal 
welfare of all mankind, not of a select group. And men in the mass 
need to approach the things of the spirit through the medium of 
what they can see and hear and touch. So the Church comes before 
them, as did Christ himself, with evidence which testifies to divinity, 
in lineaments recognisable by all who have eyes to see. As our Lord 
pointed to his life's work in proof of the validity of his claims, 2 so 

1 i Cor. i 1 8 ff. One of the objects of the Encyclical Mystici Corporis 
Christi was the refutation of this error ; cf. 9, 62, 63. " We therefore de- 
plore and condemn also the calamitous error which invents an imaginary 
Church, a society nurtured and shaped by charity, with which it disparagingly 
contrasts another society which it calls juridical. Those who make this 
totally erroneous distinction fail to understand that it was one and the same 
purpose namely, that of perpetuating on this earth the salutary work of the 
Redemption which caused the divine Redeemer both to give the com- 
munity of human beings founded by him the constitution of a society perfect 
in its own order, provided with all its juridical and social elements, and also, 
with the same end in view, to have it enriched by the Holy Spirit with 
heavenly gifts and powers. It is true that the Eternal Father willed it to be 
the * kingdom of the Son of his love * (Col. i 13), but he willed it to be a true 
kingdom, one, that is, in which all believers would yield the complete 
homage of their intellect and will, and with humble and obedient hearts be 
likened to him who for us * became obedient unto death J (Phil, ii 8). Hence 
there can be no real opposition or incompatibility between the invisible 
mission of the Holy Spirit and the juridical office which Pastors and Teachers 
have received from Christ. Like body and soul in us, the two realities are 
complementary and perfect each other, both having their origin in our one 
and the same Saviour who not only said, as he breathed the divine Spirit 
upon the Apostles : ' Receive ye the Holy Ghost * (John xx 22), but also 
enjoined aloud : ' As the Father hath sent me, I also send you * (xx 21) ; 
and again : * He that heareth you heareth me ' (Luke x 16) " MCC 63 ; 
see also 64-66. 2 j h n x 25- 


does his Mystical Body exhibit to the world the distinctive qualities 
of unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity as warranting her 
divine origin. 

UNITY. To speak of the Church as the Body of Christ is to The Church's 
proclaim her unity, her undividedness. No truth was dearer to the urdt y 
heart of St Paul than this : " We, being many, are one body in 
Christ." x This oneness was not simply a unity of ideals and as- 
pirations, or even that union in charity for which our Lord prayed 
at the Last Supper, 2 indispensable though that is if we are to be 
wholly united to him ; rather was it a surrender to the complete 
" mind of Christ." 3 The Church was one because her most sacred 
rite was one, 4 because her Lord, her faith, her baptism was one. 5 
The Church worshipped " One God and Father of all " ; 6 hence 
her unity was not a prospect set before her to be realised in the remote 
future ; it was a mark of her constitution from the beginning. The 
unity promised by Christ was that proper to the society of his 
followers, to be manifested visibly in the unanimous profession of one 
faith, the performance of one act of worship, the acceptance of one 
system of government. 

Both the divine and human elements in the Church alike demand 
her unity. She comes from the Triune God, the one and the true, 
in whom disunion is unthinkable, and shares in a manner the oneness 
of the life of the Godhead. This life is given to us through grace, 
faith, hope and charity, created gifts emanating from the depths of 
the Blessed Trinity and raising us up to a supernatural union with 
God. On the other hand, the unity of the human race, the whole 
of which is intended to be incorporated into the Mystical Body, 
demands a Church that is manifestly one and undivided. Moreover, 
the fact that there is no approach to God save through Christ, that 
he is the " one mediator of God and men," 7 reinforces the need for 
unity. He is the only door to God's sheepfold ; 8 we cannot hope 
to please the Father except in so far as he sees us in his Son. 

HOLINESS. No less evident a mark of the Church than her unity The Church's 
is the note of holiness. Christ's sanctifying mission demands that h l iness 
the organised society, which is its instrument, should share in the 
sanctity of its Founder. We have express evidence that, in its 
consummated state at least, he willed it to be " a glorious Church, 
not having spot or wrinkle," 9 and that he himself sanctified it for 
this very purpose. 10 The Holy Spirit, who is the living source of 
holiness, had been promised to it for ever. 11 Sanctity means the 
dedication of ourselves and all our actions to God ; it implies freedom 
from sin and impurity and the possession of grace, whereby the whole 
direction of our lives is brought into harmony with the divine 

1 Rom. xii 5. 2 John xvii 21. 8 i Cor. ii 16. 

4 i Cor. x 17. 6 Ephesians iv 5. 6 Ibid. 6, 

7 i Tim. ii 5. 8 John x i. fl Ephesians v 27. 

10 Ibid, w 23-30. u John xiv 16-17. 


commandments. Accordingly the Church presents herself to the 
world as the fellowship in which this happy state of things may be 
realised. Her claim is that, on the authority of our Lord himself and 
as informed by his Spirit, she teaches what is holy both in doctrine 
and in conduct, that she offers the means whereby this may be put 
into practical effect, and that, despite the exceptions which prove the 
rule, 1 her teaching conspicuously bears fruit throughout her member- 

The fact that the Church proclaims the Gospel of Christ is in 
itself sufficient proof of the holiness of her teaching. From him 
she was given her mandate 2 and the promise of the Spirit's guiding 
presence. 3 Our Lord himself claims to have received his doctrine 
from the Father and to teach only within the limits of that commission. 
" When you shall have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall you know 
that I am he and that I do nothing of myself. But as the Father hath 
taught me, these things I speak/' 4 This message thereafter passed 
into the keeping of his Body, the Church, as witness St Paul's com- 
plete assurance on the point : " As we said before, so now I say again : 
If anyone preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have re- 
ceived, let him be anathema. . . . For I give you to understand, 
brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according 
to man. For neither did I receive it of man : nor did I learn it but 
by the revelation of Jesus Christ." 5 

Moreover, by means of her sacramental system, the Church 
effectively produces in her members the holiness which she preaches. 
She cleanses them from original guilt by Baptism, strengthens them 
by Confirmation, absolves them by Penance, and crowns these and 
other instruments of grace with the Holy Eucharist, the supreme 
sacrament and sacrifice of the Mystical Body, containing the living 
presence of Christ himself. This is the method by which the Saviour 
" who gave himself for us " fulfils for each individual his plan " that 
he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself 
a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works." 6 In this people, 
which is the Church, we find realised the fruits of the Spirit, the 
source of sanctity : " charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, good- 
ness, longanimity, mildness, -faith, modesty, continency, chastity." 7 
With justice does the Vatican Council attribute to the Church " a 
marvellous holiness, an inexhaustible fecundity in all good things." 8 
The Church^ CATHOLICITY. The Fathers of the Council referred also to the 
catholicity wonderful propagation " and " Catholic unity " 9 of the Church. 

1 It need hardly be said that the Church's sanctity does not imply 
universal sinlessness. There is no incompatibility between this doctrine 
and the ready admission of " the lamentable tendency of individuals towards 
evil, a tendency which her divine Founder suffers to exist even in the higher 
members of his mystical Body." MCC 64 ; cf. 65, 66. 

2 Matt, xxviii 19-20 ; cf. Luke x 16. 3 John xiv 16. 
4 John viii 28. 5 Gal. i 9, 11-12. 6 Titus ii 14. 
7 Gal. v 22-23. 8 Denzinger, 1794. " 9 Ibid, 


Not only is she one and undivided, but her unity is conspicuously 
diffused throughout all mankind. Hence she possesses a universality 
by which she appears as a constituted society in every part of the 
world. The Church's catholicity x was to pass gradually from the 
sphere of legal right to that of accomplished fact, as conditioned by 
the circumstances of time and place in which she finds herself. 
That the Church was intended to grow to full stature, not suddenly 
but by a process of gradual development,, is clearly indicated by our 
Lord's parables of the mustard seed 2 and the leaven. 3 But it is no 
less clear that this catholicity, far from arising as it were by an acci- 
dent of history, was part of the divine plan from the beginning. 
The whole scheme of the redemption demands it ; all division of 
nation against nation, free man against slave, is to be transcended. 
" There is neither Jew nor Greek : there is neither bond nor free : 
there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ 
Jesus." 4 To this objective the Apostles had been directed from the 
outset of their ministry : " Go ye into the whole world and preach 
the gospel to every creature." 5 And forthwith they set out to achieve 
it : " But they going forth preached everywhere : the Lord working 
withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed." 6 

APOSTOLICITY. As a consequence of this Apostolic mission there j^ church's 
follows, as a property and distinguishing characteristic of Christ's apostolitity 
Mystical Body, its identity and continuity with the Church of the 
Apostles. In express words he built it upon the rock-foundation 
of the twelve, 7 and pre-eminently of Peter. 8 Whence there is to 
be looked for in the Church a legitimate, public and uninterrupted 
succession of pastors, heirs, as it were, of the Apostles, and in agree- 
ment with them in faith, worship and Church government. This 
condition of things is implicit in our Lord's manifest desire that his 
Church should remain substantially as he had founded it " even to 
the consummation of the world." 9 Indeed such a continuity is 

1 The phrase " Catholic Church " first appears in St Ignatius of Antioch 
(t ii?), Epistle to the Smyrnaeans viii 2, " wheresoever Christ Jesus is, 
there is the Catholic Church." The word " Catholic " is Greek (*a0' o'Acfr) 
antl means " universal," or, literally, " according to the whole." Whence it 
follows that the Church can be called c< Catholic " in a variety of senses : 
with reference to, first, place, inasmuch as she is diffused throughout the 
world ; secondly, time, because she will always exist ; thirdly, peoples, 
having members of every tribe, nation and tongue ; fourthly, conditions of 
men, for neither masters nor slaves, neither wise nor foolish, are excluded 
from her fold ; fifthly, doctrine, in that she possesses the entire teaching of 
Christ in its unimpaired truth ; sixthly, the means of salvation, because, 
as the whole of Christ's Passion operates within her, she possesses a remedy 
against the spiritual ills of all men ; seventhly, the obligation and necessity 
of embracing the Church which bears upon all, as she is the divinely appointed 
means for their salvation. Cf. Schultes, De Ecclesia Catholica, p. 179. 

2 Matt, xiii 31-32. 3 Ibid. 33. 

4 Gal. iii 28. 5 Mark xvi 15. 6 Ibid. 2,0. 

7 Matt, xviii 18 ; John xx 21. 8 Matt, xvi 18 ; John xxi 15-17. 

9 Matt, xxviii 20. 

The con- 
ditions of 


demanded by the Church's oneness. To have departed from its 
original constitution would mean that the unity of the Mystical 
Body had been broken ; that which St Paul regarded as an impossi- 
bility the " division " of Christ l would have come about. 

Thus we see that each of the properties of the Church emanates 
from the first and most evident of them all, its oneness. Catholicity 
is, so to say, the diffusion throughout the world of the Church's 
unity, a witness to the divine efficacy and power within her. Holi- 
ness demonstrates the world-wide fruitfulness of the life of the 
Church, disclosing her as the effective instrument of men's salvation. 
Apostolicity, in making clear the line of continuity with the primitive 
Church, points at the same time to her divine origin. Whence we 
catch a glimpse of the immense significance of the words of the Creed 
wherein we proclaim our faith in unam y sanctam, catholicam et 
apostolicam Ecclesiam. 


" FOR in one Spirit were we all baptised into one body, whether Jews 
or Gentiles, whether bond or free." a We have now to examine the 
conditions for membership of Christ's Mystical Body. What is it that 
makes us " fellow citizens with the saints and domestics of God " ? 3 
Not a few erroneous answers have been given to this question. The 
Donatists in the fifth century, for example, maintained that only the 
" just " or, as we should say nowadays, those in a state of grace 
belonged to the Church. Others, notably Wycliff and Hus, have 
limited Church membership to the predestined ; nor do Luther and 
Calvin, in this respect at least, seem to have held a different view, 
Pius XII has reaffirmed in the clearest language what are the 
conditions for membership of the Church. " Only those are to be 
accounted really members of the Church who have been regenerated 
in the waters of Baptism and profess the true faith, and have not cut 
themselves off from the structure of the Body by their own unhappy 
act or been severed therefrom, for very grave crimes, by the legitimate 
authority." The Pope then cites the words of St Paul to the 
Corinthians with which this section opens and continues : " Hence, 
as in the true communion of the faithful there is but one Body, one 
Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith; 
and therefore whoever refuses to hear the Church must, as the Lord 
commanded, be considered as the heathen and publican. It follows 
that those who are divided from one another in faith or government 
cannot be living in the one Body so described, and by its one divine 
Spirit." 4 

1 1 Cor. i 13. 2 1 Cor. xii 13. 3 Ephesians ii 19. 

4 MCC 21. The following is the Latin text of this highly significant 
passage : In Ecclesiae autem membris ii soli annumerandi sunt, qui regenera- 
tionis lavacrum receperunt veramque fidem profitentur, neque a Corporis 
compage semet ipsos misere separarunt, vel ob gravisskna admissa a legitima 


That it is through the reception of Baptism that we " put on 
Chriat " 1 is the Church's constant teaching, 2 and the Code of Canon 
Law 3 lays it down that it is precisely by this means that we become 
a " person " in the Church with all the rights and duties of Christians. 
By Baptism we are incorporated in Christ and made his members ; 
we attain a state of grace and become the adopted sons of God, all 
our sins being remitted, both that which we inherit from Adam and 
those of which we are personally guilty. Furthermore Baptism im- 
prints on the soul a " character " described by St Thomas as a 
" spiritual power " 4 which provides us as it were with a title to 
the reception of the other sacraments. 

Sinners, as such, are not deprived of their membership of the Sin does not 
Church. 5 It is true that, having lost baptismal innocence, they are Delude from 
now but imperfectly incorporated in Christ ; for, though they retain mem ers 
supernatural faith and the baptismal character, they lack the sancti- 
fying grace and charity which give full and living membership. 
They are, so to say, " putrefied " members, but, as long as they are 
on earth, not beyond revivification from the Church's inexhaustible 
treasury of graces. That our Lord did not wish to exclude sinners 
from membership of his Mystical Body is clearly indicated by his 
own words. " They that are in health need not a physician, but 
they that are ill " 6 ... " For I came not to call the just, but 
sinners." 7 The parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son offer 
a moving illustration of the same point. 8 

Nevertheless the melancholy possibility must be envisaged ofExcommuni- 
those who may have " cut themselves off from the structure of the c 
Body by their own unhappy act or been severed therefrom, for very ^hism 
grave crimes, by the legitimate authority." 9 In other words, the 
Church, as being a perfectly constituted society, has the right for 
grave reasons of excluding from membership. She may pass sen- 
tence of, or lay down conditions which involve, excommunication. 
This carries with it the deprivation of rights and privileges enjoyed 
by those in communion with the faithful. 10 But such a juridical 
penalty does not wholly nullify membership of the Church, still less 
does it necessarily imply the final condemnation before God of the 

auctoritate seiuncti sunt. Etenim " in uno Spiritu," ait Apostolus, " omnes 
nos in unum corpus baptizati sumus, sive ludaei, sive gentiles, sive servi sive 
liberi '* (i Cor. xii 13). Sicut igitur in vero christifidelium coetu unum 
tantummodo habetur Corpus, unus Spiritus, unus Dominus et unum 
Baptisma, sic haberi non potest nisi una fides (cf. Eph. iv 5) ; atque adeo qui 
Ecclesiam audire renuerit, iubente Domino habendus est ut ethnicus et 
publicanus (cf. Matt, xviii 17). Quamobrem qui fide vel regimine invicem 
dividuntur, in uno eiusmodi Corpore, atque uno eius divino Spiritu vivere 

1 Gal. iii 27. 2 Denzinger, 696, 895. 

3 Codex luris Canonici, can. 87. * III, Q. Ixiii, art. 2. 

6 MCC 22. 6 Matt, ix 12. 

7 Mark ii 17. 8 Luke xv. 

9 MCC 21, l C.I.C. can. 2257-2267. 


excommunicated person. Certain sins viz., apostasy, heresy and 
schism 1 of their nature cut off the guilty from the living Body of 
Christ. Apostasy is a form of spiritual suicide, being the complete 
and voluntary abandonment of the Christian faith which one once 
professed. Heresy, objectively considered, is a doctrinal proposition 
which contradicts an article of faith ; from the subjective point of 
view it may be defined as an error concerning the Catholic faith, 
freely and obstinately persisted in by a professing Christian. Schism 
consists in a refusal of subjection to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, 
in whose office the source of the Church's visible unity is embodied, 
or a withdrawal from communion with the faithful subject to him. 
It can hardly be denied that those who take up any of these positions 
most evidently is this the case with the deliberate apostate sever 
themselves by their own act from membership of the Church. 

The necessity of belonging to the Catholic Church in order to 
Catholics in obtain salvation is a dogma based on the words of our Lord himself : 
good faith u Q O ve - nto fa e whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. 
He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved : but he that be- 
lieveth not shall be condemned." 2 But here we must remark 
briefly upon the position of non-Catholics in good faith. 3 Even such 
authorities as Suarez and the theologians of Salamanca, writing at a 
time when, and in a country where, Catholicism reigned supreme, 
were prepared to allow that there could be heretics and infidels so 
untouched by Christian influences as to experience no doubt about 
the truth of their own religious tenets. 4 The possibility of a sincere 
adherence to error is clearly recognised by the Church. Pope Pius IX 
has declared that, taking into account all the circumstances of time 
and place in which individuals might find themselves, as well as of 
their capacity to understand, it would be presumptuous to set limits 
to the possibilities of invincible ignorance of the true Church. 5 The 
recognition of this fact, however, can do nothing to attenuate the 
Church's often repeated teaching that it is necessary for all men to 
belong to her explicitly. 6 

The^soul"^ It has sometimes been argued that non-Catholics in good faith 
^Church m ^ ^ e sa ^ to Belong to the soul, as distinguished from the body, 
of the Church. In the previous essay it has been pointed out that 
this is not an entirely satisfactory way of viewing the matter, as the 
distinction in question is not free from ambiguity. It lends itself 
to the false antithesis between an " invisible " and " visible " Church, 

1 Can. 1325, 2. 2 Mark xvi 15-16. 

3 That is to say, the much misunderstood doctrine of extra Ecclesiam 
nulla solus : "no salvation outside the Church." For the meaning of " good 
faith " see the article " Bonne Foi " in the Dictionnaire de Theologie Cathol- 
igue> tome ii, cols. 1009-1019. 

4 Suarez, De Fide, disp. XVII, sect, ii, n. 6 ; Salamanticenses, Cursus 
theologicus dogmaticus, tr. XVII, disp. ix, n. 9. 

5 Denzinger, 1647. 

6 Denzinger, 423, 468, 714, 1646-1647, 1716 and 1717. 


and suggests that one might belong to Christ's Mystical Body without 
being incorporated, simultaneously and in the same degree, in the 
visible Catholic Church which is impossible. Moreover, the 
" soul " of the Church, according to tradition, is the Holy Spirit, 
by whose power the Mystical Body is animated. 1 Although, from 
a slightly different viewpoint, we may also consider the created 
effects of the Spirit's activity viz., the vital organism made up of 
grace, the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit as 
being the source of the Church's supernatural life, 2 and to that extent 
her " souL" But limitations of space preclude a detailed examination 
of the relevance of this doctrine to the position of non-Catholics in 
good faith. Here we shall be content to summarise the generally 
accepted teaching on a question of great theological difficulty. 

The whole tenor of the Church's official documents makes it Membership 
clear that, apart from two cases, it is necessary for salvation to belong fa desire 
explicitly (in re) to the Catholic Church. The two exceptions, 
wherein membership of the Church by desire (in voto) suffices, are 
the following : (i) In the event of the impossibility of Baptism, which 
is always necessary for membership, being effectively received. 
Since, according to the teaching of the Council of Trent (Session VI, 
cap. iv), 3 the desire for Baptism (contained in the act of charity) can 
suffice for the soul's regeneration, it is clear that the desire for mem- 
bership of the Church, which is made effective by this sacrament, 
can likewise suffice. And this holds good both for catechumens, who 
are prevented from receiving the sacrament owing to some insuper- 
able obstacle, and for converts from heresy whose antecedent Baptism 
may be uncertain and who are impeded by the like extremity from 
the actual reception of the sacrament, (ii) The Church teaches no 
less clearly that actual membership of the Catholic Church is not 
necessary for the salvation of those in invincible ignorance of her true 
nature. This is stated expressly in the consistorial allocution Singu- 
lari quadamof Pius IX, 9 December 1854,* and in his Encyclical to 
the Italian Bishops, 10 August 1863. 5 ^ follows therefore that in 
this case also to belong to the Church in voto suffices for salvation. 6 

But, when rightly understood, these seeming exceptions serve Necessity of 
to emphasise rather than diminish the universal urgency of full and^^wtf *<> 
explicit membership of the Catholic Church. " We invite them all," 
writes Pope Pius XII, 7 alluding to the whole non-Catholic world, 
" each and everyone, to yield their free consent to the inner stirrings 
of God's grace and strive to extricate themselves from a state in, 
which they cannot be secure of their own eternal salvation ; for, 
though they may be related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer 
by some unconscious yearning and desire, yet they are deprived 

1 Cf. MCC 55. 2 Ibid., 56. 

3 Denzinger, 796. * Ibid., 1647. * Ibid*, 1677. 

6 Cf. art. " figlise " in D.T.C., tome iv, cols. 2166-2167. 

7 MCC 102. 


of those many great and heavenly gifts and aids which can be en- 
joyed only in the Catholic Church. Let them enter Catholic unity, 
therefore, and joined with us in the one organism of the Body of 
Jesus Christ, hasten together to the one Head in the fellowship of 
most glorious love. We cease not to pray for them to the Spirit of 
love and truth, and with open arms we await them, not as strangers 
but as those who are coming to their own father's home." 

The inner 
life of the 
Church and 
its outward 
structure in- 

Powers con- 
ferred by 
Christ on his 




WE must now consider how Christ rules the Church visibly through 
his Vicar, the Pope, and the Bishops in their respective dioceses. 
Nor shall we lose sight of the fact that " in the first place, in virtue 
of the juridical mission by which the divine Redeemer sent forth 
his Apostles into the world as he himself had been sent by the Father, 1 
it is indeed he who baptises through the Church, he who teaches, 
governs, absolves, binds, offers, makes sacrifice." 2 Although it 
must be admitted that " the structure of the Christian society, proof 
though it is of the wisdom of the divine Architect, is nevertheless 
something of a completely lower order in comparison with the spiritual 
gifts which enrich it and give it life," 3 we have seen how complete 
is the error of those who would detach the inner mystery of the 
Mystical Body from the outward framework of the Church. 4 Both 
are so closely connected that it is impossible truly to love the one 
without loving the other ; 5 they are as integral to the Church as 
body and soul to man, as divinity and humanity to Christ, who is 
the Head and Pattern of his Church. 6 

To enable the Church to carry out Christ's commission of leading 
mankind to salvation she has been vested by him with a threefold 
power, corresponding to his own office of Prophet, Priest and King : 
that of teaching, her doctrinal authority ; that of order, her ministerial 
authority ; that of government, her jurisdictional authority. We 
may note iix passing that some theologians make further subdivisions 
within these three powers and arrange them differently, 7 while 
others point out that they are fundamentally reducible to two, that 
of order and that of jurisdiction. 8 But the classification here given 9 

3 John xvii 18 ; xx 21. 2 MCC 52. 3 Ibid. 61. 

4 Cf. p. 685 ; cf. MCC 63. 5 Ibid. 91. 

6 Ibid. 62. 7 Schultes, op. cit., pp. 329-332. 

8 Billot, De Eoclesia Christi (tome i, editio 5), pp. 339-342. 

9 Cf. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theologies Dogmatics (tome i, editio 23), 
P- 552- 


perhaps lends itself to the clearest treatment in the space at our 
disposal. Further, as the power of order, which is concerned 
directly with the sanctification of the Church, is discussed elsewhere 
in this volume, 1 there remain for our consideration only the Church's 
(a) doctrinal authority and (b) jurisdictional authority. 

(a) Doctrinal Authority 

The doctrinal authority, or magisterium, with which Christ has The infallible 
equipped his Church includes all the rights and privileges necessary 
for the effective teaching of divine revelation and guarding intact the 
deposit of faith. He has willed that the human race as a whole 
should acquire God's truth, not by individual inspiration, nor by 
the private interpretation of Scripture, but by attending to the living 
voice of the Church. Hence, as a corollary, he has ensured that that 
voice shall not err ; in other words, he has endowed his Church with 
the gift of infallibility. This infallibility extends, in principle, to 
the tradition of Christian belief (faith) and the manner of life (morals) ; 
it is concerned with what men must believe, and what they must do, 
if they are to be saved. 

As, however, the Church derives her teaching on these points 
from the original deposit, " the faith once delivered to the saints," 2 
she must know how to preserve her sacred trust from contamination 
by " philosophy and vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, 
according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ." 3 
That is to say, the teaching Church (Ecclesia docens) may pass an 
infallible judgement, not only upon truths of revelation, but on 
matters so intimately connected with those truths that, were an 
authoritative decision upon them lacking, men's hold upon revelation 
itself would be endangered. Such activities as the formulation of 
creeds, the public condemnation of errors, the prohibition of certain 
books as dangerous to faith and morals, are all functions of the 
Church's doctrinal magisterium. It is by the same authority that 
she sends out missionaries, both to the faithful and to unbelievers, 
that she opens her schools and, in general, supervises with such vigil- 
ance the education of the young. 

But, as it has often been misunderstood, we must examine in The nature 
greater detail the meaning and extent of the Church's infallibility, 
We recall that it has for its object all the truths, collectively and in- 
dividually, which are formally contained in the sources of divine 
revelation ; indirectly it bears also upon such other truths as are 
necessary for our knowledge so that the deposit of revelation may be 
safeguarded. Be it noted that infallibility is a gift, a charism, bestowed 
upon the Church, the effect of which is to exclude the possibility 
of error from her teaching with regard to faith and morals. It implies 

1 Essay xxix : The Sacrament of Order. 

2 Jude 3. 3 Col. ii 8 ; cf.i Tim. vi 20. 


the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and so may be called a supernatural 
grace ; 1 its function, however, is not, as such, to sanctify the Church 
or her individual members, but to ensure that she does not teach 
false doctrine. Infallibility should further be carefully distinguished 
from revelation and inspiration. Revelation is the new manifestation 
of truth by God. Scriptural inspiration implies a divine prompting 
of the sacred author in the very act of writing, so that what results is 
literally the " word of God," even though what is contained in it 
need not always be a revelation. Or, to put the matter another way : 
revelation belongs exclusively to God ; inspiration is a joint divine- 
human act, the writer playing the role of God's instrument ; in- 
fallibility, as being proper to the Church and the Roman Pontiff, 
concerns a human activity wherein God is neither revealer nor 
inspirer, but in which he assists (Deo adiutore). 

In the popular mind it is Papal infallibility which most arrests 
attention. But it should be remembered that, when the Pope defines 
infallibly, he does so as the mouthpiece or organ of an infallible 
Church. Technically, he may use his official prerogative without 
first consulting the Church ; nor do his decrees depend for their 
validity upon the Church's subsequent ratification ; but he cannot 
be thought of as defining doctrine apart from the Church for " he 
enjoys that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed his 
Church to be endowed/' 2 Infallibility, then, belongs fundamentally 
to the Church, and to the Pope in his capacity of visible Head of the 
Church. In harmony with the doctrine of the Mystical Body of 
Christ, it is a gift bestowed upon Head and members. Thus the 
Church enjoys not only an active infallibility in teaching, but also a 
passive infallibility in believing. 

The scope The direct object of the Church's infallibility includes, in addition 

ofinfalli- to the revealed truths, such matters as the drawing up of the official 

Mlity Creeds or Symbols, the determination of the terms to be employed 

in dogmatic canons and definitions, the manner of interpreting 

Scripture and Tradition, the decision as to what is to be included in 

the Canon of Scripture, the condemnation of heresy. All these are 

but instruments for the expression and clarification of revealed 

truth ; were the Church deprived of them her doctrinal authority 

would be nullified and without effect. Accordingly they form an 

indispensable part of the Church's teaching office. 

We must now briefly summarise the implications of what theo- 
logians call the indirect object of infallibility. This covers inter alia 
matters which, strictly speaking, are the concern of the natural 
philosopher, but error in which would undermine the rational 
structure on which faith is built ; e.g. the spirituality of the soul, 
which is the natural foundation for its immortality and future life. 
On occasion the Church, without stigmatising a proposition harmful 

1 Gratia gratis data ; cf. I-II, Q. in, art. i. 

2 Denzinger, 1839. 


to faith and morals as heretical, will attach to it a censure such as, 
proximate to heresy -, erroneous in faith, false ; in so doing she judges 
infallibly, for she thus defines, though negatively, a truth as closely 
affecting divine revelation. 

Dogmatic facts fall likewise within the scope of this infallibility. 
These concern such information as is necessary for our knowledge 
if our belief in dogma itself is to be safeguarded ; e.g. the legitimacy 
of a Pope, the oecumenicity of a General Council. Clearly, were 
there uncertainty on such points, we should have no guarantee of 
the authenticity of doctrinal definitions emanating from these sources. 
Similarly the Church can decide infallibly whether a given book, 
objectively considered, contains orthodox or heterodox doctrine and 
this without prejudice to what the author meant to say. Thus the 
Fathers at Nicaea condemned the Thalia of Arius, and Innocent X 
certain propositions from the Augustinus of Jansen. The moral 
precepts of the Church, as affecting the conduct of all the faithful, 
are backed by her infallibility; so also is the Church's definitive 
approval of the various Religious Orders. Though what is here 
guaranteed is the essential goodness of what is proposed, the fidelity 
with which a given religious rule reflects the evangelical counsels, 
but not necessarily its suitability for all times and places ; since this 
is a matter, not of infallibility, but of practical prudence. In the same 
connection the Church exercises her infallibility in the solemn canoni- 
sation of saints. For it is unthinkable that the lives of those whom 
the Church upholds as models of heroic sanctity should be other than 
she declares them to be. 

We have yet to touch upon a subject which, after the original 
deposit of faith itself, first engages the attention of the Church's 
doctrinal authority, viz., theological conclusions, sometimes called 
truths virtually revealed. They are propositions not formally con- 
tained in, but deduced from, divine revelation. Often the mind 
reaches them by means of a reasoning process, or syllogism, of which 
one premise is known by faith, the other by reason. For instance, 
that " God will render to each according to his works " is a^truth 
formally revealed. With this I may connect the thought : " God 
can only so act on the supposition that man is free," and draw from 
these two statements together the inference : " Therefore man is 
free." This is a theological conclusion. Some famous examples of 
truths arrived at in this way are the following : " Christ never lacked 
efficacious grace " ; " Christ is impeccable " ; " Christ's knowledge 
is immune from error/' Now these conclusions fall within the 
scope of the Church's infallibility. In a matter so closely connected 
with the deposit of faith, involving also the whole process of the 
development of dogma, 1 it is imperatively demanded that the Church 
should have the deciding voice ; without it her teaching authority 

1 See Essay i, Faith and Revealed Truth, pp. 33-5- 


would be gravely deficient. Finally, we should note that infalli- 
bility in this connection guarantees that the truth in question is in 
fact virtually x revealed, but it says nothing about the validity of the 
arguments by which the mind may have deduced it. The charism 
of infallibility safeguards, not the reasoning processes of theologians, 
but what the Pope and Bishops, as custodians of divine revelation, 
teach to the faithful throughout the world. 

(b) Jurisdictional Authority 2 

In addition to her authority to teach men the way of salvation 
the Church has been given effective power to guide them along its 
course. The right to rule, no less than the right to teach, is an in- 
tegral part of her saving mission. So Christ very clearly laid it 
down : "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you/' 3 " What- 
soever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven." 4 
" Going therefore, teach ye all nations . . . teaching them to observe 
all things whatsoever I have commanded you." 5 We shall see more 
clearly how this power of rulership is exercised when we come to 
consider the functions of the Pope and the Bishops, in whom it is 
chiefly vested. For the moment we may note that the practical 
government of the Church falls under three heads : the authority 
which she possesses is legislative, judicial and coercive. 

Legislative The Church's legislative authority, as its name implies, means 

authority ^hat she has power to make laws binding in conscience, for the 
general good of the Christian community. It includes also the right 
to impose precepts ; that is, to apply the law to individuals in the 
form of a command. Every properly constituted society must, from 
the nature of the case, be able to legislate for its members. Least of 
all can this right be denied to the Church, which is a divine society 
organised for the most vitally significant of purposes : the eternal 
salvation of mankind. Nor may it be objected that the words of 
Christ and the precepts of the Gospel should be sufficient without 
any further commandments being added. It is true that the funda- 
mental principles of the Christian law are to be found in these sources ; 
but the Church has been promised the assistance of the Holy Spirit 
in adapting, interpreting and developing these for the benefit of the 

1 Or mediately, as distinguished from immediately (i.e. formally), re- 
vealed. The theologians further distinguish, within the sphere of formal or 
immediate revelation, between what is explicitly and what is implicitly re- 
vealed. But this complex, though highly important, subject cannot be 
pursued further here. Cf. Schultes, Introductio in historiam dogmatum, 
pp. 99-115;. 166-179; F. Marin-Sola, V Evolution homogene du Dogme 
Catholique, I, pp, 61 el seq. 

2 The Church's Jurisdictional authority, strictly speaking, includes her 
doctrinal authority ; for she teaches by divine right (ius). We here use the 
term in its more restricted sense of power of rulership (potestas regendi seu 
regiminis) ; to be distinguished again from the power of order. 

3 John xx 21. 4 Matt, xviii 18. 6 Matt, xxviii 19-20. 


faithful according to the diversity of time and place. Confident of 
the divine guidance, she has exercised this prerogative from the 
beginning, e.g., in the decrees of the apostolic assembly at Jerusalem 
with regard to the Mosaic observance, 1 as also in the so-called 
" Pauline privilege." 2 So the Church has continued to act through 
the ages, assured that her charism of infallibility will protect her 
from enacting what is contrary to Christ's Gospel. 

As a consequence of the Church's power to legislate there follows Judicial 
her judicial authority. This may be defined as the right, and duty, authority 
of deciding definitively in a given case the true meaning of her own 
laws, and of the conformity, or non-conformity, of the actions of her 
subjects with the law. Our Lord himself gave an indication of the 
exercise of this sort of power 3 with reference to wrong-doing among 
the faithful. The offending brother is first to be corrected privately, 
then, if he refuse to amend, the case is to be brought before the 
Church. Ecclesiastical authority must next pronounce judgement. 
Should the guilty party refuse to abide by it, there is the appropriate 
sanction : he is to be regarded " as the heathen and the publican." 
St Paul acted as judge in this way in the case of the incestuous 
Corinthian, 4 and he gives explicit advice to Timothy as to the correct 
procedure. 5 

Again, as an inevitable corollary to the foregoing powers, we Coercive 
find the Church possessed of coercive authority. In fact, the words 
of our Lord just quoted and the behaviour of St Paul illustrate the 
Church's judicial and coercive powers operating together. What is 
here meant is not that the Church can bring direct physical compul- 
sion to bear upon her subjects, but that she has the right to punish 
them when they offend against her ruling. Unpalatable as this doc- 
trine may be to the mind of the modern man, living as he does in a 
world contemptuous of all ecclesiastical authority, it is nevertheless 
bound up with the Church's function of government. It is only the 
counterpart, on a higher plane, of the right of civil society to attach 
to its laws the sanction of a penalty for their infringement. Canonical 
punishment normally consists in the wrongdoer being deprived by 
legitimate authority of some spiritual or temporal benefit. 6 Excom- 
munication is an example of a spiritual penalty, the imposition of 
fasting of a temporal. The object of such punishment, it need 
hardly be said, is not any arbitrary exercise of power, but the cor- 
rection of the delinquent and the restitution of the order of justice 
broken by bis offence. St Paul's second Epistle to the Corinthians 
shows him conscious of the possession of coercive authority as here 
understood. 7 

With the power of the Church in temporal affairs we shall deal 

1 Acts xv zS ff. 2 r Cor. vii 12 ff. 

3 Matt, xviii 15 if. 4 i Cor. v 3. 

5 i Tim. v 19. 6 C.I.C., can. 2214-2219. 

7 2, Cor. xiii 10 ; cf. x 6. 


more fully when we come to consider her relations with the State. 
Here it will suffice to note that those directly subject to the Church's 
potestas regiminis are baptised persons ; for these only, as we have 
seen, are in the proper sense of the word members. Finally, it 
should be borne in mind that governmental authority was given 
directly and immediately by Christ to the Apostles and their suc- 
cessors, and not to the Church as a whole or to the collectivity of 
the faithful. In other words, this power is now vested in the Bishops, 
who are not delegates of the Church's members, but appointees of 
God. The constitution of the Church is thus not democratic, 1 but 
hierarchic, its pastors deriving their office from above, not from below. 
To this must be added, as a qualification, the principle of monarchy, 
inasmuch as the fulness of authority was given solely to Peter, 
Prince of the Apostles, and to his successors, the Bishops of Rome. 


IT is the belief of Catholics that our Lord promised to Peter a primacy 
of jurisdiction over his Church, 3 a primacy which he actually con- 
ferred after his resurrection ; 4 they hold, moreover, that it was 
given, not to Peter alone, but to the successors in his office and that 
it is vested for all time in the Roman Pontiff, who is the visible Head 
of the Church. No article of the Christian faith is more fully sub- 
stantiated in Scripture and Tradition than this. Our present task, 
however, is not to set out exhaustively the evidence for the doctrine, 5 
but briefly to explain its meaning. 

St Peter's Let us recall the words of the principal Petrine text : " And I 

pnmacy sa y to ^^ . ^hat thou art Peter (Aramaic : kepha) y and upon this 
rock (kepha) I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall 
not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom 
of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be 
bound also in heaven : and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, 

1 Though there is a very real element of democracy in the appointment 
to the chief offices of the Church : the Pope and the Bishops, not being 
hereditary officials, are drawn from all nations and every condition and 
walk of life. Election by voting has also its part in the procedure. 

2 " Moreover it is absolutely (omnino necessarium est) necessary that 
there should be the supreme Head, visible to all, effectively directing the 
mutual co-operation of the members to the attainment of the proposed end ; 
and that visible Head is the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. For just as the 
divine Redeemer sent the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, to undertake in his 
name (John xiv 16, 26) the invisible guidance of the Church, so he gave mandate 
to Peter and his successors, representing his person on earth, to conduct also 
the visible government of the Christian commonwealth." MCC 69. 

3 Matt, xvi 18-19. 4 John xxi 15 ff. 

5 This has been compendiously done in, e.g., Dieckmann, De Ecclesia, 
I, pp. 285-319. 


it shall be loosed also in heaven." x Our Lord here makes known 
his will in a series of three metaphors whose meaning, clear enough 
to us, would be still clearer to listeners familiar with Old Testament 
Scripture and the teaching methods of the Rabbis. He first compares 
his Church to a building of which Peter is to be the foundation ; 
he next employs the comparison suggested by " the keys/' which 
will be handed to Peter as a sign of his power over Christ's house ; 
finally comes the reference to ** binding and loosing,'* a symbol of 
the moral nature of the office, which is furthermore backed by a 
divine sanction. 

The comparison of the Church to a house that is, of Israel 
is derived from the Old Testament and occurs frequently in the New, 2 
Equally scriptural is the idea of a foundation to the building. 3 To 
the strength of this foundation the house owes its firmness and stabil- 
ity, enabling it to withstand rain, wind and floods, " for it was 
founded upon a rock." 4 Similarly it is from its foundation that 
the unity of the house arises, the walls, roof and whole structure 
being bound together in one single edifice in virtue of the rock on 
which it is based. All this illustrates the relation between the 
Church and Peter. He who was Simon is given the role of founda- 
tion to the building erected by Christ ; hence he receives the name 
of " Peter," which means " rock." By him the new House of Israel 
is to be unified and stabilised so that nothing, not even " the gates 
of hell," 5 symbol of all that is opposed to Christ's Kingdom, can 
prevail against it. 

1 Matt, xvi 18-19. The gospel text, of course, is in Greek, the words 
respectively for '* Peter " and " rock " being Wrpos- and irerpa. M.-J. 
Lagrange (Saint Matthieu, pp. 323-324) comments as follows : <c IJcTpos 
n'existait pas comme nom propre ni en grec, ni en Latin, et ne peut pas 
etre derive du latin Petronius. C'est done un nom nouveau qui parait dans 
1'histoire. Le nom commun irerpos signifiait pierre, et Wrpa rocher. 
Mais 7TT/>o? convenait mieux pour un homme, et -rrerpa. convenait mieux 
comme fondement de l*3glise. En aram^en, on ne pouvait realiser certe 
elegance. Nous savons par le N.T. que Simon tait nomm6 Cephas dans 
I'figlise primitive (John i 42 ; Gal. i 18 ; ii 9 ; i Cor. ix 5 etc.) . . . On 
comprend done tres bien . . . que Jesus ait pu dire et Ma. ecrire : Tu es 
Cepha et sur ce Cepha je batirai mon glise, et que le traducteur grec ait 
gard6 en meme temps Wr/oa qui rpondait mieux a la situation, et irei-pos 
qui avait prevalu en grec comme nom masculin." 

2 Cf. Acts ii 36 ; vii 42 ; i Tim. iii 15 ; Heb. iii 6. 

3 See especially Eph. ii 19 fF. ; cf. iii 17 ; Col. i 23 ; i Cor. iii 10. 

4 Matt, vii 25. An interesting text, showing our Lord himself -using 
" rock '* in the same sense as in xvi 18. Cf. Luke vi 48. 

5 Matt, xvi 1 8. See the striking corroboration of this text in Luke xxii 
31-32 : " And the Lord said : Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired 
to have you (plural), that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for 
thee (singular), that thy faith fail not : and thou, being once converted, 
confirm thy brethren." We may note the parallels : Satan hath desired 
you the gates of hell ; I have prayed for thee I will build upon this rock ; 
confirm thy brethren Peter the stabilising force in the Apostolic college. 
Cf. Dieckmann, op. cit^ p. 313. 

His primacy 
continued in 
the Pope 

Primacy of 


" Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my sheep." * 
So the promised primacy was conferred in the words of the risen 
Christ. He who had spoken of himself as the " good shepherd/' 2 
who desired that there should be " one fold and one shepherd," 3 
was handing over the sheepfold to Peter's care ; for he himself was 
to ascend to the Father. 4 True, he was only withdrawing his visible 
presence ; he would still take care of his own as their chief pastor ; 
hence the commission : " Feed my sheep." But Peter had become 
shepherd of the flock of Christ in the same way as he was the founda- 
tion of his Church. Christ remains, in the words of the selfsame 
Peter, " the prince of pastors," 5 but he now acts as the Lord's 
representative, his Vicar, and he, together with the rest of the 
Apostles under his leadership, is a true pastor of souls. 6 Nor can 
it be argued that this pastoral office was to terminate with the death 
of Peter. For the Kingdom of God was to endure until the end of 
ages. 7 Accordingly, unless the gates of hell were to prevail, there 
could never come a time when Christ's sheepfold would be deprived 
of its shepherd, his Church of its rock foundation. 

When, four centuries later, the Fathers at the Council of Chal- 
cedon, on receiving the Tome of Leo, acknowledged its author as 
" the interpreter of Peter," 8 they summarised in a phrase the 
traditional belief of Christians in the position of the Pope. It is 
true that in an earlier age the great Patriarchs and Bishops acted 
with less frequent reference to Rome than is now the case, but they 
were none the less fully conscious of their subordination to the 
Apostolic See, " mother and mistress of all the churches." 9 In the 
Middle Ages the conspicuous exercise of the power inherent in their 
office by such pontiffs as Gregory VII and Innocent III was, in effect, 
no more than the Church's assertion of the primacy of the spiritual 
over the temporal order. In modern times the breakdown of 
Christendom at the Reformation and the disruptive influence of the 
various National Churches, together with the development of easy 
and rapid communications, has indeed produced a highly centralised 
ecclesiastical organisation hitherto unknown. But this " ultra- 
montanism," as it has sometimes not very happily been called, serves 
only to 1 emphasise the primacy, not merely of honour, but of juris- 
diction, which belongs to the Pope in virtue of Christ's commission 
to St Peter. The Pope's rulership over the Church is thus not 
simply directive, it is wholly authoritative (potestas iurisdictionis) ; 
moreover, it concerns, in addition to faith and morals, matters of 

1 John xxii 15-17. 2 John x n. 3 Ibid. 16 ; cf. xi 52 ff. 

4 John xx 17 ; cf. xiv i ff. ; xvi 28 ; xvii 4 ff. ; viii 21 ff. 

5 i Peter v 4 (lit. " chief shepherd ") ; cf. ii 25. 

6 Cf. Matt, xviii 18 ; ix 36-38. 

7 Matt, xxviii 18-20 ; cf. xiii 38 ff. ; xiii 47 ff. 

8 Synodal Letter to Leo ; No. 98 in the collection of Leo's letters ; P.L. 
54, 951-960. Cf. Hefele, History of the Councils (Eng. trans, vol. 3), p. 429 ff. 

9 Denzinger, 999. 


discipline and government as they affect the Church In every part of 
the world. 

The Church's doctrinal and juris dictional authority, which we 
have briefly examined, is vested also in the Roman Pontiff. It ^ 
with regard to the first of these, as touching the Pope's office as 
teacher, that he enjoys the charism of infallibility. On this point 
it will suffice to quote the words of the Vatican definition : " We 
teach and define it to be a dogma divinely revealed that the Roman 
Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when acting in his office 
of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by his supreme Apostolic 
authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held 
by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised him in 
Blessed Peter, he enjoys that infallibility with which the divine 
Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine 
concerning faith and morals ; and therefore such definitions of the 
said Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from 
the consent of the Church." 1 

Every word of this pronouncement was weighed and debated by The Pope's 
the Fathers of the Vatican Council. It should be studied with equal 
care by those who would grasp the Church's teaching on Papal 
infallibility. Much of the hostility to which it has given rise has its 
source in ignorance or misunderstanding of the scope and limitations 
clearly indicated in the definition itself. An ex cathedra definition 
is one in which the Pope employs the fulness of his apostolic authority 
to make a final and irrevocable decision (definit) on a question of 
faith or morals, with the clear intention of binding all the faithful 
to its acceptance, as involving, directly or indirectly, the deposit of 
faith. It will be obvious that this does not necessarily include the 
normal teaching authority by which he is frequently addressing the 
faithful, either directly or through the medium of the Roman Con- 
gregations. Teaching of the latter kind, though it is to be received 
with all reverence, does not enjoy the charism of infallibility. The 
Holy Father may speak, for example, merely as Bishop of Rome ; 
or, as Pope, he may give instruction to only a section of the universal 
Church ; or again, he may address the whole Church, but without 
the intention of defining anything as of faith. In none of these 
activities does he enjoy, within the terms of the definition, immunity 
from error. The same may be said of the occasions when the Pope 
expresses his mind motu proprio, i.e. by initiating a question himself, 
or, it may be, in response to queries submitted to him by others. 
Teaching which is; technically, n on -infallible may be imparted in 
Pontifical Decrees and Instructions and in Encyclical Letters, for all 
of which the Pope is the responsible author. His authorisation of the 
decisions of the Roman Congregations, notably that of the Holy 
Office and, of equal authority within its prescribed limits, the Biblical 
Commission, is not to be regarded in the light of a solemn definition. 

1 Denzinger, 1839. 

The Pope's 

The Pope 
tive, not 
successor , of 


To these decisions, on account of their great weight, a respectful 
internal assent is demanded of the faithful ; but they are not neces- 
sarily irreforinable and have not the sanction of infallibility behind 

Of the Pope's legislative, or jurisdictional, authority it will be 
enough to remark that all the power of rulership possessed by the 
Church is vested in his office ; adding that while he is subject^ to 
none, save God himself, all the members of the Church, not excluding 
the Bishops, are subject to him. He may appoint and depose 
Bishops and send Legates, with authority delegated by him, wherever 
he deems fit. In a word, his jurisdictional authority is supreme. 
But, though authoritarian and absolute within its own sphere, the 
Papal power cannot be fairly described as arbitrary or despotic. 
The Pope is as subject as the least member of the faithful to the pre- 
scriptions of the divine and natural law ; from these he can dispense 
neither himself nor any member of his flock. His jurisdictional 
authority is such that the canons and positive laws of the Church 
have no coercive sanction in respect of his actions, but they have 
for him their directive force none the less ; and he is bound to use 
his great powers with the charity and prudence of one ever conscious 
of his grave responsibility before God. To enable him to dp so 
how otherwise could he hope to succeed ? he enjoys the assistance 
of the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee that his rulership will be " unto 
edification and not unto destruction." 1 

Finally, be it remembered that nothing we have said concerning 
the successor of St Peter militates against the supreme power over 
the Church exercised by Christ himself. He is the Head of the 
Church in his own right ; Peter and his successors only in virtue 
of the power received from him. Thus the Pope is the Vicar (Le. 
representative), not the successor, of Christ. Christ is Head as 
Redeemer and Mediator of all men ; " and therefore," writes Pius XII, 
"this Body has only one principal Head, namely Christ, who, con- 
tinuing himself to govern the Church invisibly and directly, rules it 
visibly through his personal representative on earth/ 5 2 Christ is 
the Head of all men throughout all time, 3 the successor of Peter only 
of those living under his Pontificate. Christ is Head alike of the 
Church militant on earth, suffering in Purgatory, and triumphant 
in Heaven ; the Pope's headship is concerned only with the Church 
militant. The Pope, as visible Head, rules the Church visibly ; 
but Christ, though hidden, rules it still, bringing to bear upon his 
Mystical Body all those unseen influences, of grace and light and 
strength, which can emanate only from the Incarnate Son of God 
and his life-giving Spirit. 

^Cor. xiii 10. 2 MCCs8. 

* Sumrna Theologica, III, Q. viii, art. 3. 




AN account will be found elsewhere in this volume of the institution Christ *s 
of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy and the origins of the Episcopate. x ^onmdssion 
Here we shall be concerned, not with the power of Order, but with Apostles 
the jurisdiction proper to the Bishops of the Church as successors to 
the Apostles. For they collectively received from Christ a commis- 
sion no less explicit than that given to their head, Peter. " Amen 
I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound 
also in heaven : and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be 
loosed also in heaven/' 2 " Going therefore, teach ye all nations 
. . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com- 
manded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the con- 
summation of the world." 3 

" Therefore the Bishops are not only to be regarded as more The Bishops* 
eminent members of the Universal Church, by reason of the truly P wers 
unique bond which unites them to the divine Head of the whole Body 
. . . but each of them is also, so far as his own diocese is concerned, 
a true Pastor, who tends and rules in the name of Christ the flock 
committed to his care." 4 The Bishops possess, within the limits 
of the dioceses assigned to them, jurisdiction in the fullest sense, 
i.e. as including doctrinal and jurisdictional authority. It should 
be noted that they are not merely the Pope's delegates, as, for example, 
are Apostolic Vicars in missionary countries ; their jurisdiction is 
proper (i.e. belonging to them ex officio) and ordinary (i.e. not dele- 
gated). Thus, as the episcopacy was a method of government 
instituted by Christ, it would be against the constitution of the 
Church for their authority so to be superseded as to be reduced to 
vanishing point. On the other hand the Roman Pontiff's supremacy 
implies that the exercise of the Bishops' powers may be controlled 
by him, either by limitation, or extension, or, in a particular case, 
by their total removal. 

Here also it may be explained that no Bishop, with the exception 
of the Pope, has, by divin,e law, any jurisdiction over his episcopal 
brethren. The episcopacy itself was instituted by Christ but, St 
Peter alone excepted, all the Apostles ranked as equals. Patri- 
archates, now little more than honorific titles, and archbishoprics 
have their origin in ecclesiastical law ; their authority descends to 
them from that of Peter and his successors. It was found to facilitate 
the government of the Church to raise certain Bishops to a higher 
rank and give them, within prescribed limits, powers of delegating 
faculties to others ; but they exercise these powers, not in virtue of 
their own episcopacy, but as sharing in the governing authority 
of the Apostolic See. Even the Cardinals, as such, have no powers 

1 Essay xxix. 2 Matt, xviii 18. 

3 Ibid., xxviii 19-20 ; cf. Acts x 40-42. * MCC 40. 


distinct from those proper to the Holy See, i.e. the Pope, They are 
his counsellors and assistants in the government of the Universal 
Church ; to them also pertains the negotiation of such business as 
must be done while the Roman See is vacant, notably the supervision 
of arrangements for the election of the succeeding Pontiff ; but the 
cardinalate, unlike the episcopate, is not of divine institution. 

Other pre- Abbots and Superiors of Religious Orders, though they may 

the exe *"cise a quasi-episcopal power in respect of their own subjects, do 
not belong to the hierarchy of jurisdiction in the Church as instituted 
by Christ. Nor, strictly speaking, can parish priests claim this privi- 
lege ; though in the past a case has been made out for them. True, 
they have the power of Order by divine right and the indelible 
sacramental character ; they may possess also, under the Bishop, 
ordinary jurisdiction over a portion of the faithful for the preaching 
of the word of God and the administration of the sacraments, but 
not for making laws or passing judgements in the external forum. 
Their historic function is that of assistants to the Bishop. They 
clearly share in the exercise of his pastoral office, but they are not 
pastors in the sense that he is, nor do they possess his jurisdiction. 
Parish priests are not to be thought of as holding the same relation 
to the Bishops as the latter have to the Pope. Their rights and 
privileges, though carefully legislated for in Canon Law, 1 are, ac- 
cording to the divine constitution of the Church, of a far more 
subordinate kind. The prerogatives of the Bishop, as successor to 
the Apostles, are inalienable. 2 

The Bishops' In virtue of the commission received from Christ it belongs to the 
Bishops to feed their flocks with the word of God ; that is to say, 
t ^ e y ave doctrinal authority over their own subjects. The subject- 
matter of this is proportionately the same as that of the Roman 
Pontiff's magisterium, viz., divine revelation and matters connected 
therewith. Accordingly, within their respective dioceses, they have 
the duty of supervising the teaching and defence of Christian doctrine, 
of proscribing errors, of prohibiting books and periodicals dangerous 
to faith and morals. As the Bishops individually, however, are not 
graced with the charism of infallibility, they do not normally take 
responsibility for decisions of great doctrinal moment ; here the 
procedure is to refer the matter to the Holy See or to an Oecumenical 
Council. None the less, Bishops are authentic masters and judges 
in matters of faith, and their teaching is to be presumed sound until 
the contrary is proved. Should doubt arise as to a Bishop's ortho- 
doxy, the question is to be settled, not by his subjects, but by an, 
appeal to the Roman Pontiff. 

1 C.I.C., can. 451 et seq. 

2 These remarks apply in their full import to residential Bishops who 
rule a diocese : vide can. 334 ; not to titular Bishops, who exercise no juris- 
diction in the diocese (in partibus iufidelium) whose title they bear : vide 
can. 348. 


But whatever be the possibility of individual Bishops falling into 
error, the Bishops collectively, i.e. the body of the episcopate, 
whether dispersed throughout the world in union with the Pope, 
or assembled under the presidency of the Pope in General Council, 
are infallible teachers of Christ's doctrine. Of General Councils 
we shall speak in the next section. But, apart from these, the 
Bishops' infallible doctrinal authority is exercised explicitly when, 
for example, they unanimously accept as the rule of faith the decrees 
of a particular Council ; or in giving an identical response to a ques- 
tion proposed by the Pope ; or by agreeing in the repudiation of 
some terror. Implicitly the Bishops may testify infallibly to the truth 
of a doctrine by the fact that they unanimously allow it to be taught 
in their dioceses, since it is the duty of Bishops to oppose and forbid 
teaching that is untrue. 

Their jurisdictional authority runs parallel with, or rather, is in- Their juris- 
volved in, their office as pastors of the flock. They rule their subjects fictional 
in both the internal and external forum. Accordingly they may uthonty 
legislate within their own dioceses in matters pertaining to faith, 
worship and Church discipline. They are also judges in the first 
instance and may inflict canonical penalties on delinquents. But, as 
has already been said, the Bishops exercise both their doctrinal and 
jurisdictional authority in dependence upon the Roman Pontiff ; he 
may impose limits on their powers even within their respective dio- 
ceses, as well as reserve special matters to his own competence. 
Bishops, it need hardly be said, may lay down nothing contrary to 
the decisions of the Holy See ; nor have they, as individuals, any 
power of legislation over the Universal Church. 

Lastly, what has been said of the gravity of the Pope's personal Pastors of 
responsibility before God applies with no less force to the Bishops. souls 
If the most eloquent description of his office is that of " the servant 
of the servants of God " so, proportionately, should it be theirs. 
They, as he, must be mindful of the dignity of their calling ; but as 
upholding the honour of the Church, not as a claiming of personal 
prestige. Being true pastors of souls, they look for their model, 
not to the autocracy and despotism of secular monarchy, but to the 
" Good Shepherd " who lays down his life for the sheep. 1 Not- 
withstanding the respect that is rightly paid them, like him they 
come " not to be ministered unto, but to minister." 2 If the Bishops 
can appeal for their great authority to the mandate given by our 
Lord to the Apostles, 3 they have received from him instructions no 
less clear as to the spirit in which it is to be exercised : " You know 
that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them and they that are 
the greater exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among 
you : but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your 

1 John x 14-15. 2 Mark x 45. 

3 Matt, xviii 18 ; xxviii 18-20. 


minister. And he that will be first among you shall be your 
servant." * 


Councils in A CHURCH Council may be defined as a legitimate assembly of the 
the Church p^ors of the Church for judging and legislating in matters of doctrine 
and ecclesiastical discipline. Such a council is described as pro- 
vincial when there are present at it the bishops of a single province, 
under the presidency of its Archbishop or Metropolitan ; plenary 
(at one time called national) when composed of the bishops of one 
kingdom or nation ; general or oecumenical (from the Greek olKovfjLwrj 
meaning " the inhabited world ") when representing the Universal 
Church, with the Roman Pontiff presiding, either personally or 
through his representative. The decrees of provincial and plenary 
councils are not, of themselves, infallible ; they may, however, 
become embodied in the rule of faith, if they are so regarded by the 
Bishops throughout the world, or are ratified by the Pope with his 
full teaching authority ; as happened, for example, with the decrees 
of the plenary council of Carthage (418) and the second council of 
Orange (529). 

Oecumenical The decrees of a General Council, on the other hand, are an 
frfe^tofc witness to the Catholic rule of faith. For a council to 
rank as oecumenical 2 a number of conditions must be fulfilled, of 
which the most important is its confirmation by the Roman Pontiff. 
The convoking of such a council belongs to the Pope, as the supreme 
ecclesiastical authority ; though this condition, with regard to certain 
of the early eastern councils, has been waived, or rather supplied by 
a subsequent ratification or the use of a legal fiction analogous to a 
sanatio in radice* Thus the first general councils at Nicaea (325) and 
Constantinople (381) were summoned by the Emperor, but received 
the hall-mark of oecumenicity by the Roman Pontiff's approbation. 
This procedure did not conflict with the present state of the law as 
violently as might be supposed. There existed at that date an inter- 
connection between secular and religious affairs the closeness of 
which we can scarcely realise to-day. The unity of the Church, 
then practically conterminous in its visible extent with the Empire, 
was a vital interest to the Roman Emperor ; hence he was not acting 

1 Matt, xx 25-^7. 

z There have been twenty Oecumenical Councils (of which only the 
first seven are recognised by the Greek schismatics) : Nicaea I (325), 
Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II 
(553) and III (680-681), Nicaea II (787), Constantinople IV (869-870), 
Lateran I (1*123) and II (1139), III (1179), and IV (1215), Lyons I (1245) 
and II (1274), Vienne (1311-1312), Constance (1414-1418), Florence (1438- 
1445), Lateran V (1512-1517), Trent (1545-1563) and Vatican (1869-1870). 

3 Cf. Billot, op. cit., p. 718. The phrase means " a validation from the 
beginning " ; that is to say, the Council gains a retrospective legalisation by 
the Pope's recognition of it. 


entirely beyond his rights in assembling the Bishops with a view to 
preserving that unity, especially as it lay with the civil authorities to 
keep open communications and generally to provide facilities for such 
a gathering. Nor did he interfere in the strictly ecclesiastical de- 
liberations of the conciliar Fathers, even though he may have been 
given the place of honour among them. Due deference was always 
paid to the Papal Legates, and neither the Emperor nor the assembled 
Bishops were in doubt as to the need of having the Council's decrees 
ratified by the Roman Pontiff. 

Those summoned to an Oecumenical Council, and having a de- Those who 
liberative vote, are l the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, take $ art 
whether or not they be Bishops ; Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, 
residential Bishops, even if not yet consecrated ; Abbots and Pre- 
lates nullius ; 2 the Abbot Primate, the Abbot Superiors of Monastic 
Congregations, and the chief Superiors of exempt religious orders 
of clerics. Titular Bishops also have a deliberative vote when called 
to a Council. The expert theologians and canonists who always 
attend are there in an advisory capacity, not as judges and witnesses 
in matters of faith. The Pope, as sole superior to all the Bishops, is 
the only president of the council, a presidency which he may exercise 
by means of Legates ; with him the decision rests as to what is to 
be discussed and its order of treatment, likewise of transferring, 
suspending or dissolving the Council ; should he die while it is in 
session, its deliberations are automatically suspended pending the 
orders of the succeeding Pontiff for their resumption. 

Nor is it necessary that all the Bishops of the Catholic world Conciliar 
should attend a Council in order to make it oecumenical. This is & demons 
practical impossibility and it suffices that the whole Church, morally 
speaking, should be represented. A completely unanimous decision 
is not required. In the event of dissension arising, the final judgement 
lies with that portion of the Council adhering to the Roman Pontiff, 
since he is the Head of the Church and protected from error by the 
gift of infallibility. But if the decision is to be conciliar, and not 
simply Papal, the Bishops siding with the Pope, even though a 
minority, must be morally representative of the universal Church. 
Confirmation by the Roman Pontiff, as has already been said, is an 
indispensable condition of the oecumenicity of a Council ; for a 
gathering of Bishops, no matter how numerous, could not, if separated 
from the Head, represent the Church as a whole. By the same 
principle, it is within the Pope's power to ratify some, but not all, 
of the Bishops' decisions ; as instanced at Chalcedon, when Pope Leo 
repudiated its 28th Canon concerning the prerogatives of the See 
of Constantinople. 

1 C.I.C., can. 223. 

2 I.e. nullius diocesis, " of no diocese " : ruling over territory, with clergy 
and people, not enclosed in any episcopal diocese (can. 319)- Twelve 
Benedictine Abbots among them the Abbots of Monte Cassino, Subiaco 
and St Paul's outside the Walls enjoy this privilege. 


The function In conclusion, it should be remembered that Papal infallibility 
^ oes not) as * s somet i mes imagined, render the calling of a General 
Council superfluous. Such an assembly is not indeed absolutely 
necessary for the government of the Church, but there are occasions 
when it may be both advisable and highly beneficial. The Pope, 
being neither the recipient of private revelation nor divinely inspired, 
is morally bound to employ all available human means in his in- 
vestigations ; accordingly, he is much helped in discovering the con- 
tent of the deposit of faith by consultation with the Bishops, who 
aid him in this way, as well as acting as judges of whatever may be 
decided. In matters of Church discipline the advantages of taking 
counsel with the pastors of souls from all parts of the world are too 
obvious to need emphasis ; it is in this way that the needs of the 
faithful in the various countries can be understood and their case 
legislated for. Furthermore, although the authority of a Council is 
essentially the same as that of the Pope, there is an impressiveness 
about decisions issuing from such an assembly more arresting to 
men's minds than that of a single voice, however exalted. But it is 
vain to attempt to place the Catholic episcopate in opposition to the 
Roman Pontiff ; the specious appeal of the Gallicans, and of many a 
heretic before them, from the decision of the Pope to some future 
General Council is subversive of the divine constitution of the Church. 
The Church's infallible teaching authority is vested in the body of 
Bishops joined with the Pope, and in the Pope himself. It is idle to 
seek to separate the two. 


The teaching " LET every soul be subject to higher powers. For there is no 
of Leo xin p Ower b ut f rom God." 1 All authority, whether ecclesiastical or 
civil, has for its final sanction the divine law. But, as the main object 
of the State's existence differs from that which is the chief concern 
of the Church, we must distinguish a duality of function. Pope 
Leo XIII has restated for the benefit of modern society the principles 
which should determine the relations between Church and State. 
" The Almighty, therefore, has appointed the charge of the human 
race between two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the oi^e 
being set over divine, the other over human, things. Each in its 
kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, 
limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the pro- 
vince of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within 
which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right." 2 
Though both Church and State come from God, they are to be dis- 

1 Rom. xiii i. 

2 Encyclical " Immortale Dei" i November 1885 : translated as " The 
Christian Constitution of States " in The Pope and the People (1929 edition), 
P- Si- 


tinguished by the diversity of ends each has in view, a distinction 
which is the basis of the difference of powers enjoyed by each. 

As we have gathered from the foregoing pages, the reason for The sphere 
which the Church exists is man's sanctification and eternal felicity. f^ e ', 
" Whatever, therefore, in human things is of a sacred character, authority 
whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end 
to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of 
God, is subject to the power and judgement of the Church. What- 
ever is to be ranged under the civil and political order is rightly * Mixed 
subject to the civil authority, Jesus Christ has himself given com- matters " 
mand that what is Caesar's is to be rendered to Caesar, and that what 
belongs to God is to be rendered to God." * Among things " of 
a sacred character " there obviously fall such activities as the preach- 
ing of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, the cele- 
bration of divine worship, the final judgement with respect to the 
morality of human acts. Besides these and the like indisputably 
spiritual functions, there are other matters, in themselves temporal 
but consecrated to God by reason of the uses to which they are put, 
which are subject to ecclesiastical authority ; e.g. Church buildings 
and all articles set apart for divine worship, as well as the sources 
of income appropriated to the upkeep of God's ministers. 

But in actual practice the division between the respective pro- The authority 
vinces of Church and State is not absolute and clear-cut ; there i$f theState 
a " mixed " category, pertaining to the Church from one point of 
view, to the State from another. The marriage contract and educa- 
tion are conspicuous examples of this. Marriage is a sacrament, and 
as such pertains exclusively to Christ's Church ; but it is also a 
social contract, and under this aspect the State rightly takes cognisance 
of it. Education, fostering as it does the growth and development 
of a free individual human person, potentially or actually a member 
of Christ's Mystical Body, must always be among the chief pre- 
occupations of the Church. But the State, responsible in large 
measure for the welfare of its future citizens, may also legislate 
within the sphere of education, provided that in doing so it does not 
override, but rather respects and reinforces, the freedom and spiritual 
interests of those chiefly concerned. More particularly is the State 
within its rights in using its powers to ensure that the benefits of the 
best education should not be withheld from any member of the com- 
munity capable of profiting by them. In furthering justice in one 
department, however, the State must guard against perpetuating, 
or aggravating, injustice in another. Thus, for example, the State 
is beyond question exceeding its powers in determining that the 
adequate financial assistance, needful for the educational reforms 
which it imposes, shall be made conditional upon the acceptance of 
a religious syllabus offensive to the consciences of a large number of 

1 The Pope and the People, p. 52. 


its citizens. This is to trespass upon the rights of the Church, a 
usurpation by Caesar of the things that are God's. 

The business of the State is to foster the common good of its 
citizens, to provide for their temporal well-being. But, as man is 
so constituted that he cannot be happy even in this world unless his 
heart is set on his final end, which is God, the State cannot disregard 
these supra-temporal aspirations ; it must, at least indirectly, en- 
courage whatever may assist their realisation. Directly, however, 
the State is concerned with promoting the public good by legislation 
in the interests of the political, social and private rights of its citizens. 
The application of its laws to particular cases and the settlement of 
individual claims and counter-claims are subject to the State's 
judiciary. Determining the effects of civil contracts, the punishment 
of law-breakers, the imposition of taxes, preparation for national 
defence, subsidising the arts and sciences these are the activities 
which properly engage the attention of the State. Nor can the State 
be fairly accused of undue interference with personal liberty when it 
reinforces the moral law with positive statutes ; for example, by 
forbidding blasphemy and public indecency. Propaganda in favour 
of philanthropic endeavour and personal unselfishness and, in general, 
the fostering of an intellectual and moral atmosphere favourable to 
the practice of the natural virtues, especially justice and mutual 
well-doing, fall likewise within the legitimate province of the 

Power of the In none of these matters has the Church the right of direct inter- 
Churchin ference. Occasion might arise, however, when she must speak her 
ttiind even here. For the political and social orders, in so far as 
they fall under the moral law and the judgement of human conscience, 
are subject to the authority of the Church. This supremely im- 
portant principle is not seldom overlooked : most often by those 
who resent the subjection of their political and social actions to any 
higher tribunal ; though it is by no means unknown for the repre- 
sentatives of the Church to offend against it, for example, in ad- 
vocating merely personal views on political and social questions by 
an illegitimate appeal to alleged <c Catholic principles." The Bishops, 
it should be noted, are not qualified by their office to criticise the 
military strategy of a war, or express their views as to what the 
political and economic arrangements of a peace-settlement should 
be ; but they may, as pastors of their flocks and witnesses to the 
Gospel, pronounce upon the justice, or otherwise, of the issues 

Political elections, as such, are no concern of bishops and priests, 
save in their capacity as private citizens ; it is in fact their duty to 
remain strictly impartial, so as not to prejudice their position as 
spiritual guides to every section of their flock ; but if a political party, 
or individual candidates, are advocating measures opposed to the 
Church's interests, then the faithful may be reminded of where 


their duty lies. Again, ecclesiastical authority is not empowered to 
sit in judgement upon purely economic questions of supply and de- 
mand, though clearly it may use its influence, let us say, to ensure 
that the workers are not deprived of a just wage. Thus many 
human situations can arise upon which the episcopate is entitled 
to give guidance, without being charged with " interference " in 
matters outside its sphere. 

These considerations should make clear both the distinction Harmony 
between Church and State, and the need for their harmonious co- between 
operation. "When political government (regnum) and ecclesiastical^^ 
authority (sacerdotium) are agreed/' writes Ivo of Chartres, " the 
world is well ruled and the Church flourishes and bears fruit. But 
when they disagree, not only do less important interests fail to pros- 
per, but those of the greatest moment fall into miserable decay." 1 
It is obvious that civil authority can, and should, while keeping within 
its due limits, facilitate the mission of the Church. The making of 
good and just laws, the respecting of its citizens 1 conscientious rights, 
especially in regard to religion, the preservation of peace and order 
effectively assist the growth of God's Kingdom on earth ; just as 
their contraries, social injustice, the absence of religious liberty, 
discord and anarchy constitute so many hindrances. Similarly, 
though at a much deeper level, the Church contributes within its 
own order to the well-being of the State : by inculcating respect 
for authority, fostering the observance of civil laws, upholding 
the moral standard and encouraging the practice of the social 
virtues. 2 

It is beyond the scope of these pages to enter into the detailed Concordats 
relations of the Church with the modern State. Liberal democracy 
on the one hand, and the various forms of totalitarianism on the other, 
have given rise to a new set of problems, emphasised by the complete 
secularisation of politics and an attitude towards religion ranging 
from sceptical indifference to fanatical hostility ; but the principles 
of their solution remain the same. The Church will always claim 
the right to judge of politics in their ethical and religious bearings ; 
but she will never descend into the political arena or allow herself 
to be identified with any human polity. If her own prerogatives are 
infringed she will make known her protest, not indeed on account 
of mere prestige, but lest she prove unfaithful to her mission. In 
situations where the ideal is unobtainable, she will tolerate much 
that is imperfect for the sake of the good that may be preserved. 
It is thus that, without compromising her message, she comes to 
terms, by means of a concordat, with governments in many ways 
opposed to her own interests. Such a diplomatic instrument is 
a treaty between the Holy See and a secular State touching the 

1 Epistle 238 ; P.L. 162, col. 246. 

2 For the benefits conferred by Christianity on the State, see Pope Leo's 
Encyclical already quoted ; op. a*., pp. 53-5^. 


conservation and promotion of the interests of religion in that State. 
The extreme flexibility whereby the Church, in this way or by tacit 
agreement, can effect a modus vivendi with almost any political 
regime is a proof, not of unprincipled opportunism, but that she is 
committed to none. Here, as in many other of her activities, she 
may appeal for her mandate to the example of the Apostle Paul : 
" I became all things to all men, that I might save all." x 


Indefecti- BY way of concluding our brief survey of the juridical structure of 
bility of the Christ's Mystical Body, which is the Catholic Church, we may note 
Church t ^ at i t possesses the property described by theologians as indefecti- 
bility. The Christian Society, of its nature " far more excellent than 
all other associations of human beings, transcending them as grace 
transcends nature and as things immortal transcend all things that 
pass away," 2 is destined to survive until the end of time. " Un- 
believers", says St Augustine, 3 "think that the Christian religion 
will last for a certain period in the world and will then disappear. 
But it will remain as long as the sun as long as the sun rises and 
sets ; that is, as long as the ages of time shall roll, the Church of 
God the true body of Christ on earth will not disappear." The 
reason for this power of survival lies, not in the Church's juridical 
elements, but in the indestructibility conferred upon her by the 
abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and of Christ himself. 4 The 
visible hierarchy, the elaborate Church organisation, being insepar- 
able from human imperfections, though a part of our Lord's plan from 
the beginning, have not in themselves the stuff of immortality. 
This they derive from the sources of grace and divine life within, 
the hidden riches of the Mystical Body which constitute the veritable 
" Mystery of the Church." 5 

No one has put this point more forcibly than Pope Pius XII, in 
words that refute for ever the charge that Catholic Christianity op- 
presses the free life of the spirit under the weight of ecclesiastical 
formalism : " For although the juridical grounds upon which also 
the Church rests and is built have their origin in the divine con- 
stitution given her by Christ, and although they contribute to the 
achievement of her supernatural purpose, nevertheless that which 
raises the Christian society to a level utterly surpassing any order 
of nature is the Spirit of our Redeemer, the source of all graces, gifts 
and miraculous powers, perennially and intimately pervading the 
Church and acting in her. Just as the framework of our mortal 

*i Cor. 1x2,2. 2 MCC6i. 

3 In Psalm. Ixx, n. 8. 4 John xiv 16 ; Matt, xxviii 20. 

5 The title of an invaluable little book by Pere C16rissac ; it comprises 
an admirable series of meditations on the Church. 


body is indeed a marvellous work of the Creator, yet falls short of the 
sublime dignity of our soul, so the structure of the Christian society, 
proof though it is of the wisdom, of its divine Architect, is neverthe- 
less something of a completely lower order in comparison with the 
spiritual gifts which enrich it and give it life, and with him who is 
their divine source." 1 

It is by the Spirit within that the Church lives ; it is by our The Church 
correspondence with that Spirit that the Church grows, speaking l e f ^ ty 
metaphorically, to " the fulness of Christ." 2 While Christ and his y p 
members can never constitute physically one person, as some have 
mistakenly supposed, 3 there is yet a profound sense in which the 
final consummation of the Mystical Body will realise, as St Augustine 
saw, " the whole Christ," totus Christus. " It is due also to this 
communication of the Spirit of Christ that all the gifts, virtues and 
miraculous powers which are found eminently, most abundantly 
and fontally in the Head, stream into all the members of the Church 
and in them are perfected daily according to the place of each in the 
Mystical Body of Jesus Christ ; and that, consequently, the Church 
becomes as it were the fulness and completion of the Redeemer, 
Christ in the Church being in some sense brought to complete 
achievement." 4 

So it is that the Catholic Church remains, now as ever, the ultimate The will of 
hope of the world. She is the one supra-national force able to ^{^^the 
integrate a civilisation fast dissolving in ruins. Outside her visible Church 
communion there may be " broken lights," half truths of authentic 
Christianity ; but only within the fold can men respond to the full 
and objective will of Christ. Fittingly we may end with the memor- 
able words of St Augustine : 5 " Let us love the Lord our God ; 
let us love his Church ; the Lord as our Father, the Church as our 

1 MCC 61- Thus we are enabled to see how the overflowing richness 
of the Church's inner life can find expression in a great variety of rites and 
formularies. We may note in this context, and indeed on the whole subject 
of the reunion of Christendom, the significant words of the same Roman 
Pontiff : " We would have this to be known and appreciated by all, both by 
those who were born within the bosom of the Catholic Church, and by those 
who are wafted towards her, as it were, on the wings of yearning and desire. 
The latter especially should have full assurance that they will never be forced 
to abandon their own legitimate rites or to exchange their own venerable 
and traditional customs for Latin rites and customs. All these are to be held 
in equal esteem and honour, for they adorn the common Mother Church 
with a royal garment of many colours. Indeed this variety of rites and 
customs, preserving inviolate what is most ancient and most valuable in 
each, presents no obstacle to a true and genuine unity. It is especially in 
these times of ours, when the strife and discord of war have estranged men's 
hearts from one another nearly all the world over, that all must be impelled 
by the stimulus of Christian charity to promote union in Christ and through 
Christ by every means in their power." Encyclical Orientalis Ecclesiae 
Decus ; C.T.S. trans., 27. 

2 Eph. iv 13. 8 MCC 85. * MCC 77. 

5 He is alluding to the schism of Donatus. 


Mother. , . . What doth it profit thee not to offend the Father, 
who avenges an offence against the Mother ? What doth it profit 
to confess the Lord, to honour God, to preach him., to acknowledge 
his Son, and to confess that he sits on the right hand of the Father, 
if you blaspheme his Church ? Hold fast, therefore, O dearly 
beloved, hold fast unswervingly to God as your Father, and the 
Church as your Mother." 1 


1 Enarratio in Psalm. Ixxxviii, sermon ii, n. 14 : quoted from Leo XII Fs 
Encyclical Satis cognitum, 29 June, 1896. 



SINCE these essays make one work, and follow one another in a Composite 
definite order, I might assume that readers of this one have read nature of 
those that come before it, and therefore, the one that treats of the man 
nature of Man. 

However, I must be forgiven if I recall the essential point of that 
essay. Man is not an Automaton, nor an Ape, nor an Angel. By 
this I mean, a man is not just a piece of mechanism, like a steam- 
engine ; nor yet is he merely an animal, that has but instinct and 
cannot think nor choose. Nor yet is he an angel, for angels are 
simply Minds they have no bodies : *' a spirit hath not flesh nor 
bones as ye see me having," said our Lord, when after the Resur- 
rection the Apostles thought they were seeing a ghost. Man is 
Body-Soul. He is flesh-and-blood, and mind. Mind means the 
power of thinking, and the power of choosing. And in Man, Mind 
works along with the brain in a way which we need not here discuss, 
provided we remember it ; and when I say " brain," I include all 
the rest that man's living body involves the nervous system, the 
senses, the instincts. Therefore, whenever the ordinary living man 
feels, he also thinks ; and when he thinks, his imagination and his 
emotions and his nervous system, and in fact all that is in him, 
respond and become active at least in some degree. 

Therefore when you are dealing with man, it is quite useless to 
try to separate him into two, and pretend he is either just a body, 
or just a mind. This essay will show that God, according to the 
Catholic Faith, does not do so : but first, it is worth seeing that 
man, when he has dealt with God, or has sought to get into touch 
with him in a word, to " worship " him has always acted in 
accordance with this double nature of his : or, on the rare occasions 
when he has tried to do otherwise, has got into grave trouble. 

I speak, of course, of the normal man behaving normally, and 
not of morbid, nor of mystical states ; and, of course, I am speaking 
of man in this life, and not in the next. 

From what I have said, you will see that man cannot so much Man's know- 
as think of God as if man were merely Mind. He has to use his led % e f God 
brain, and when he does this, he makes pictures with his imagination 
even to-day, after all our training, we make some sort of picture 
to ourselves when we say the word " God." Even the Scriptures 
are full of phrases that represent God as though he were like our- 
selves our Lord's eternal exaltation in heaven is described as 



" sitting down at the right hand of God/ 3 " not," as the Catechism 
reminds us, " that God has hands." He is a Spirit : but we, being 
men, have to picture him to ourselves somehow. As a matter of 
fact, the human mind has always risen to the thought of God from 
the experience of material objects that is, of course, save in the case 
of direct and special revelations : but these are abnormal and I am 
speaking only of the normal. For example, a quite uneducated man, 
call him a " savage " if you like, is quite able to rise from the spectacle 
of limited, changing things to the notion of that great Cause which 
must be at the back of them. 

That he can do so is defined by the Vatican Council, though of 
course that Council does not say that all men as it were hatch the 
notion of God from what they see around them or that they do it 
in the same way, or successfully. In fact, experience shows that 
though the most simple man can quite well use the sight and touch 
of things in order to reach a notion of a God who made them, and 
keeps them, and arranges them, yet he can quite well go on to misuse 
his mind on the subject, and make many a mistake about it. For 
example, if he sees a violent storm, or a raging mountain fire, or 
volcano, he will very easily proceed to say that the God who is 
responsible for this must be not only powerful, but cruel or de- 
structive. The fact remains that he has got, by means of his mind, 
to the thought of God, by way of his senses ; and then has proceeded, 
also because of what he sees and feels, to use his mind awry, and to 
draw deductions that careful training would show him to be un- 

Let us therefore keep to this conclusion When a man so much 
as begins to think about God, he always starts from something that 
touches his senses, and he can never altogether exclude the fact that 
he is Body as well as Mind, and in his life never will so exclude it. 
Nor should he. It is quite useless to try to pretend you are something 
that you are not, and God does not mean you to try. Why should 
he ? If he has made you a man, he does not wish you to behave 
as if you were something quite different, like an ape, or like an angel. 
Some men practically behave like the former, and you call them 
" sensualists." A minority of students and over-cultured persons 
would like to behave as if they were just minds you call them 
" intellectualists." Each sort is lop-sided. You are sometimes 
tempted to think that the latter sort is in the greater damger. For the 
sensualist may always pull himself up human nature does not take 
kindly to a complete collapse into animalism. But the marf' who 
despises material things is quite likely to experience a sudden fatigue, 
to give up, and to suffer a " reaction," and become extremely greedy 
for the good things of life. If he does not, he is none the less quite 
out of touch with ordinary men and women. 

Worship Now when a man is very convinced of anything, he always wants 

to do something about it. If he is a simple person, he probably 


does it at once, and rather noisily. With education, he may behave 
with greater restraint : but if he never tends to express himself, as 
we say, he is probably a languid and colourless person. If children 
are pleased, they jump and dance. When a man feels in good form, 
he sings in his bath. When he is in love he wants to kiss the girl 
he loves ; and, in short, he wishes to do something exterior to give 
vent to the interior state of his feelings. So when men have been 
convinced of the existence of God, they have always done and said 
things to reveal the fact. They feel how small they are compared 
to him they fall flat on the ground, or kneel. They feel he is good 
and great and takes care of them they sing hymns or gesticulate or 
even dance. Above all, when they feel that everything, and them- 
selves in particular, belongs to him, they have invariably tended 
to show this outwardly usually by " giving " him something, to 
prove that they recognise his right to everything. Men interested 
in fields, will oifer him field-produce : in orchards, fruit : in flocks, 
a sheep or goat or ox. This has gone so far that they feel they ought 
to offer him something which represents themselves even more ade- 
quately, and you find instances of men killing their eldest son, or 
mutilating themselves so that the " life-blood " flows. Why^ kill- 
ing " ? It seems fairly clear that men, by destroying the " gift 
they offer to God, are trying to prove to themselves, and even to 
show to God, that they truly recognise that he deserves the whole 
of the gift, and that nothing is kept in reserve : and that they must 
never take it back, because they have in reality no " right " in it at 
all. They will also feel the need of expressing outwardly what they 
think in their minds and picture with their imaginations, and so they 
make images, and surround these images with signs symbolical of 
the homage they want to pay to the invisible God. They will do all 
the things that occur to them ; and everything that their senses or 
imagination can suggest does occur to them. They will burn sweet 
spices : they will light bright fires : they will sing and dance, and 
they will collect coloured flowers or stones or anything else that 
strikes them. And above all, since man is "social" and lives 
together in groups, of which he feels the unity very acutely, men 
will tend to do all these things in common, and make social acts ot 

them. . r - 

This is what I mean by worship any and every piece of human 
homage paid to God : and while it is quite true that the supreme 
and only necessary homage is that of the mind, whereby we know 
God, and the will, whereby we love him and choose to subordinate 
ourselves to him, yet man rightly tends to express himself exteriorly, 
and "cult" or " worship " has always, in accord with complete 
human nature, contained an exterior, material element. 

It is well to see that neither in the Old nor the New Testament 
has exterior cult been disapproved of, any more than the use of our 
brains concerning God and the things of God has been rebuked. 


It is perfectly clear from what I have said that just as a man can make 
all sorts of mistakes when he starts thinking about God, so he can 
make mistakes about the ways in which God likes to be worshipped. 
For example, the human sacrifices and mutilations I mentioned 
above are not really an apt way of expressing the completeness of 
pur response to God's all-inclusive claim. So what you will find 
in the Old and New Testaments is a progressive check upon inade- 
quate ways of showing your worship of God, but you will not find 
that the exterior worship is in itself condemned. The Hebrews 
inherited from their pagan ancestors a number of forms of worship, 
and picked up a number more during their sojourns among pagans. 
When Moses gave them their Law, he abolished many of these, 
and regulated others, and above all taught a true knowledge of God's 
nature and attributes so as to prevent a wrong meaning being given 
to the acts of worship they still used. The one thing that was ab- 
solutely forbidden was, the making of images of God for the eye. 
It was too easy for men to attach a wrong value a " person -value," 
so to say, to such images. But the Hebrews still went on talking 
about God in terms that suit the imagination, for they were not 
abstract philosophers : and as late as you like in Hebrew history, 
ritual is very minute and exact, and even increasingly so in some 
ways. As to the New Testament, I say no more than this, so as not 
to anticipate : Our Lord shows perfectly well that he recognises the 
duty of expressing exteriorly our interior worship, if only because 
in the Our Father he provided his disciples with a form of words ; 
and what he rebuked was, not exterior actions, but the idea that 
exterior actions were good enough without interior dispositions, or, 
hypocrisy in the carrying out of such actions, for example, in order 
to win esteem, and not to worship God. And he himself, in the 
Garden of Gethsemani, allowed his body to reveal the agony of his 
mind, by falling prostrate, and lifted his eyes to heaven when giving 
thanks, and raised his hands when he blessed the Apostles, and by the 
use of clay cured the blind man, and by the use of formulas like 
the very term " Father " as applied to God sanctioned our drawing 
help from customary things of sense, and pictured heaven as a feast. 
This leads me to my second point : the first has been, that man 
by his very nature tends to worship as well as think about God by 
means of his knowledge and experience of created things, and that 
God has not prohibited him from doing so. 


I WANT now to go much further than this, and say that God not 
only as it were puts up, reluctantly, not to say disdainfully, with 
this sort of worship from the men whom he has made, but spon- 
taneously deals with them in accordance with their whole nature, 
in which the material element plays so great a part. 


After all, God is himself the Author of nature. He could quite God reveals 
well, had he chosen, have created nothing but angels. (Even had^" 25 ^ 
he done so, the angels would have had to worship him, as in fact they ^itfide things 
do, in accordance with their nature.) However, he not only created 
this visible universe, but created Man in particular, and continually 
thrusts nature into his eyes and on to his attention so that to wor- 
ship God by means of nature and in nature is the very suggestion, 
so to say, of God himself. St Paul 1 insists that men had no 
excuse for not knowing and worshipping God, since " what is 
invisible in God is (none the less) ever since the foundation of the 
world made visible to human reflection through his works, even his 
eternal power and divinity " ; and to the Lystrians 2 he preaches 
a charming little sermon to those simple-minded pagans about how 
God has never left himself without sufficient witness, by means of his 
ceaseless gifts of rain and sun, of harvests and happiness. As I said, 
the nature of pagan notions about God, and worship of God, could 
easily degenerate ; but the root of the matter is there, and was 
supplied by God himself. 

Catholics hold, no less than the Protestant tradition does, that 
God revealed himself freely and specially to the Hebrews. From 
the first, we read how God revealed himself and worked through 
what struck the senses objects, like the Burning Bush, the Pillar 
of Fire, the Glory over the Ark in a sense, through the symbol 
of the Ark itself : phenomena, like the storm upon Mount Sinai : 
events, like the Plagues of Egypt. The rules for sacrifice and ritual 
were not just tolerated by God, but sanctioned positively by him : 
and, altogether, the Old Testament dispensation was so made up 
of material things intended to be used spiritually in a greater or 
a less degree, that the Prophets had to spend much more time in 
recalling the Jews to interior dispositions of soul than in exhorting 
them to be true to the details of the Law. I add, that God chose 
to reveal himself by means of writings the Old Testament religion 
is a " book-religion " and again, through men : prophets, priests 
and kings. And all this was essentially social : the People was held 
together not only by its worship of One and the selfsame God, 
but by tribal and national and family ceremonies, from what con- 
cerned marriage right up to the great festivals like the Pasch, the 
Day of Atonement, and Pentecost. 

Concerning the manifold reasons for, and nature of, the In- The 
carnation, this volume already contains an essay. Let me then say Incarnation 
here only one thing : It establishes once and for ever, and in fullest 
measure, the principle that God will not save human nature apart 
from human nature. The material side of the transaction of our 
Saving might have been minimised. God might have saved us by 
a prayer, a hope, by just one act of love. He might have remained 
invisible to eye, inaudible to ear. But he did not. He took our 
1 Rom. i. 2 Acts xiv. 


human nature the whole of it. Nothing that is in us, was not 
in Mm. Jesus Christ was true God, and true Man. In him was 
that two-fold nature, in one Person. And indeed, in his human 
nature was that double principle that is in ours there was body, 
and there was soul. In Jesus Christ are for ever joined the visible 
and the invisible ; the Infinite, and the created, limited thing that 
man is : Man, in short, and God. Since, then, the Incarnation, 
no one can possibly criticise a religion because it is not wholly 
" spiritual." We are not wholly spiritual : Christ is not wholly 
spiritual. The religion that we need, the religion that he gives, 
will not be totally unlike what we are, and what he is. Christ did 
not treat us as though we were stones : nor yet, as if we were angels. 
He became Man, because we are men ; and as men he, perfect Man, 
will treat us. 

The work of You expect that a man's work will be characteristic of him. 
salvation in- When therefore you observe that the whole method of our salvation 
camational: wa an i ncarna tional one, wherein the Spirit operates in and by 
" means of the flesh, you will expect to see this work itself out in detail. 
You see that it does so, first, in the massive fact of the sort of Church 
that Christ founded. The Church, existing as it does upon this 
earth for the sake of men who live on the earth and not for dis- 
embodied souls, still less for angels, is so constructed as to suit the 
situation. It is visible, yet invisible. It has its way in, and its way 
out. It has quite definite frontiers. It has a perfectly unmistakable 
form of government. Of the structure of the Church, this volume 
has also spoken. I need therefore not dwell on it, any more than I 
need upon the Incarnation itself. I need but add, that the nature 
of its Founder being what it is, and the nature of the Church being 
what it is, and our nature being such as we have described it, you 
cannot possibly be surprised if what goes on within the Church is in 
keeping with all the rest. The object of the Church being the 
salvation and sanctification of ourselves, the method of the Church 
will include and not disdain a material element. Even beforehand, 
we might have expected this, nay, felt sure that it would be so. 
In the concrete, this method will turn out to be, normally, the Sacra- 
mental System. This is what we have to study. 

Let me but add, that we should be glad that this is so. Had 
our Lord given us a wholly " spiritual " religion (if such a thing is 
conceivable), we might have reproached him for neglecting those 
bodies of ours, which minister to us so much good pleasure, and 
provide for us such grave difficulties. We might have grieved that 
be had done nothing for our social instinct, that always, in every 
department, forces us to create some social unit or other. Again, 
knowing ourselves all too well, we might have felt that the ideal, 
just because so disembodied, would prove to be beyond us : we 
would be sure that the weight of our bodily humanity would sooner 
or later drag us down. After all, we must eat and drink : men 


marry : they mingle with their fellows if we can in no way co- 
ordinate all this with what is spiritual, catch it up, use it, see how it is 
legitimate and can be made of value we are practically being asked 
to despair of human life. On the other hand, if we see that no part 
of human nature is neglected by our Lord, we are, as I said, not only 
grateful but most humbly grateful, seeing that what has so often sup- 
plied material for sin is judged, by Christ, as none the less able 
to be given a lofty task, the sublimest duty that of co-operating with 
Grace, nay, being used by Grace and in its interests. And once 
and for all, we see that God scorns nothing that he has made : that 
Jesus Christ was Man, not despising nor hating his manhood ; that 
his Church understands, as he does, all that is " in man " ; and that 
as the Eternal Son of God assumed a human nature, never to lay it 
down, so too in our very bodies, and helped by bodily things, we are 
to enter into that supernatural union with God through Christ, 
wherein is to consist our everlasting joy. 


WHEN we read the earliest documents relating to the Christian 
Church, we find Christians at once using all sorts of religious be- 
haviour. They do not only pray, or propound a moral code you 
find them being dipped in water : meeting for common meals of 
greater or less solemnity : " laying hands " on one another : main- 
taining the institution of marriage : anointing sick persons with oil : 
not eating certain sorts of foods : paying attention to certain days, 
such as that of the New Moon, and also the first day of the week, 
and sometimes adopting quite strange rites, like putting honey upon 
the lips of children or even adults. 

These rites did not all stand upon the same footing. Some were Early de- 
prohibited : some were tolerated or kept within certain bounds velopments 
(like the observance of special days) : some were regarded as quite 
exceptionally solemn, and were imposed officially. Looking at the 
matter from outside, you see, on the whole, that what these last- 
named had of special about them was, that Christ himself had in- 
stituted them, or at least his Apostles officially imposed or used them : 
and that they implied something beyond themselves, and even 
produced certain results in the soul. No one, for example, professed 
to suppose that Christ had ordered the observance of the New 
Moon : though placing honey on the lips of a child, or milk, might 
signify something spiritual, no one quite claimed that it produced 
any special result in the child's soul. On the other hand, you will 
hear expressions such as that we are " saved by means of the Bath 
of New Birth " (Titus iii 5) : that the Holy Spirit, or Grace, is given 
" by means of the laying-on of hands " (2 Tim. i 6 ; Acts viii 18). 
And marriage is spoken of as a " mighty symbol " (Eph. v 25). 1 

1 The word " musterion," here translated as " symbol," is explained 
below, p. 741. 


It Is easily seen that there was much here that might induce 
confusion, and even abuses, and needed clearing up. Indeed, the 
confusion is often manifest. Some people urged that it was better 
not to marry at all : others acted as though Christianity had abolished 
all restrictions upon whom you married. Some began to make life 
intolerable by introducing all sorts of food-restrictions ; others went 
freely to pagan feasts. Some seemed to think that the " bath of 
New Birth " was meant to give you even bodily immortality : others 
that you could bathe in it vicariously, on behalf of those who had 
already died. Some turned the meals, taken in common, into an 
occasion for creating social cliques, and quite failed to see in the meal 
that which it stood for or signified to put it at the lowest, for Paul 
makes clear that as the ceremony to which it was but a preface pro- 
ceeded, there was more in it than just a noble or pure idea : the 
" Lord's Body " itself was to be discerned therein, to be fed upon 
as he had ordained, with vast consequences to those who thus re- 
ceived it. Hence even the preface to this, with its signification of 
union in charity, was being travestied by these social schismatics. 

We must not be surprised that these Christian rites were not, 
at first, exhaustively explained, nor perfectly understood by all. 
Very little, in Christian doctrine, was or could be immediately 
stated in an adequate formula : even in the simpler matter of issuing 
orders, it was at once found that questions were asked, and inter- 
pretations had to be given. Thus, the Apostles decreed that meat 
that had been used in a pagan sacrifice must not be eaten. " What," 
asked the Christians, " are we to do when marketing ? what, when 
invited to dinner ? How can we tell whether the meat in the butchers' 
shops, or offered at table, has come from a pagan temple or not ? " 
Such questions needed answering whenever they arose. So with 
dogma. The Christians knew that they worshipped Christ as God. 
" How then/' some of them asked, " could he have been also man ? 
He could not. His humanity must have been merely apparent 
he was a ghost-man." " No," said the Church, " he was true man." 
Already St John has to make this point. Thereupon the pendulum 
swung back. " Then he cannot have been true God his sonship 
can have only been one of adoption, not of nature. He must have 
been divine/ not God." " No," insisted the Church, " he was 
true God too." Questions and answers continued till the theology 
of the Incarnation, as we say, was worked out the complete theory 
and the proper official expressions in which the dogma was to be 
stated were provided. The same sort of process is seen in regard 
of these pieces of ritual behaviour that the Christians carried through. 
It will be clear that I am not remotely suggesting that what we now 
know as the Seven Sacraments did not exist from the beginning, 
and exist in substance just as they do now : but, if I may say so 
reverently, the first Christians needed desperately to use our Lord 
Jesus Christ himself, rather than speculate about him though the 


time came and came soon when they had to do that, and did it : 
and somewhat in the same way they were baptised, married, con- 
firmed, went to Communion, but had no " covering formula/' so 
to call it, to apply to all these transactions precisely from what we 
call the C sacramental " point of view. 

You first see coming to light the notion that certain transactions Signs 
are " signs " they visibly represent something you do not see 
an idea, or an event. Washing with water is a very natural symbol 
of spiritual purification ; sharing in a common meal naturally sym- 
bolises social unity, and, indeed, the breaking of bread could well 
represent the sacrifice of Christ himself : oil had always stood for 
a symbol of health and well-being. Hence the word " mystery " 
began very soon to be used by Christians of their rites, and the Latin 
word " sacramentum " after a while began to be used as a translation 
of " mystery." But be careful about these words. " Musterion " 
originally only meant something C shut up," and then, something 
which had a meaning concealed within it, and then, just a " secret." 
The pagan rites known as " Mysteries " consisted in ceremonies of 
a symbolical sort, wherein religious impressions were made on the 
minds of the participants- for example, the solemn exhibition of an 
ear of corn represented the presence of a god : an elaborate dance 
or procession represented the progress of a soul in the underworld, 
and so forth. What the devotee had learnt or experienced was to 
be kept a dead secret. " Mystery," then, in this original sense has 
nothing to do with the word technically used now to mean a Truth 
in itself surpassing human intelligence, and needing to be revealed 
by God, and even so, not fully intelligible to our natural powers of 
thinking. Similarly, " sacrament " meant at first no more than a 
" holy thing," or rather, a " religionified " thing, so to say. It was 
first applied to money deposited by litigants in some religious place, 
or forfeited by the loser and given to religious purposes. It came 
thus to mean any solemn engagement, and in particular the military 
oath. As equivalent (very roughly : the Latins were not skilful 
in finding equivalents for Greek words) to " mystery," it meant 
little more than that what it was applied to was more sacred than 
its mere external nature would lead you to suppose. 

But you see at once that this notion of " sign " extends so widely 
as to cover almost anything ; similarly, almost any religious per- 
formance could be called a " holy thing," and indeed the word 
" sacrament " for a long time was applied to all sorts of religious 
activities the Lord's Prayer was a sacrament in this sense. We 
ourselves apply the word " mystery " not only in the technical sense, 
but, for example, to the incidents commemorated in the Rosary, 
because they were material occurrences with profound significations. 
The notion then admits of much further definition. 

It is at once clear that some " significant " transactions stood out 
as quite special because they had been instituted by Christ himself. 


The Sacra- 


He said : " Go, baptise in the Name of the Father and of the Son 
and of the Holy Ghost." He said : " Do this in commemoration 
of me." Yet even this would not be sufficient as a definition of 
certain special transactions ; for Christ told his Apostles to u Wash 
one another's feet," for example. Here is an obvious symbol, and 
it was instituted by himself, and the institution is duly observed 
from time to time in the Church even now. Yet it stood on quite a 
different footing, for instance, from baptism. But why did it do so ? 

Because it became clear that some of these signs were instituted 
by Christ to produce certain results in those who used them, and 
by no means ordinary results of a moral or devotional sort, such as 
the looking at a pious picture might do, or even what I have just 
quoted the Washing of Feet. Our Lord says definitely that 
Baptism is necessary for salvation (Mark xvi 16) ; that to enter the 
Kingdom of Heaven you must be born again by water as well as by 
the Holy Spirit (John iii 5) ; and St Paul (quoted above) says we 
are " saved by means of the bath of New Birth." When, after 
baptism, hands are laid on the newly baptised, or when they are laid 
on those set apart for the Christian ministry, the Holy Ghost, and 
Grace, are said to be given " by means " of this laying-on of hands. 

We see then that there exist in the Church certain material 
transactions, such that they stand as signs of something spiritual, 
and also, somehow cause and confer and contain what they signify, 
and that these efficacious signs were in some sense instituted by 
Christ himself. There is one more preliminary remark to be made. 

I have called this essay The Sacramental " System" This implies 
that Christ has not as it were instituted " sacraments " casually, 
but according to a principle ; and that the sacraments are not 
thrown haphazard into the Church, but form an orderly series : not 
only that their existence is governed by an idea, but that an idea rules, 
no less, their number and their nature, gives them coherence and a 
unity. The idea that governs their existence has already been 
sufficiently, perhaps, explained. I therefore merely recall that it 
involves the doctrine that matter is not bad, nor to be despised, but 
can be, and is, made use of by God and by Christ and by the Church 
in the work of our sanctification. The opposite to this would be 
the doctrine that matter, or the body, or the visible world at large 
is somehow bad, and this doctrine was best seen in the sect of the 
Manicheans a curious sect, Persian in origin, but made up as time 
went on of all sorts of ideas and practices. As a matter of fact, the 
notion has always existed in some shape side by side with the true 
Catholic one, which is, that nothing that God has made is bad, nor 
has it become bad since and because of the Fall. Right down to 
our own day, a false Puritanism has existed : the Middle Ages saw 
many strange versions of it, involving strange results, such as, that 
food, marriage, and in fact anything to do with the physical life of 
man, was bad, owing to his fallen state, or even to the essential bad- 


ness of matter. It is no part of my duty to go into this here ; but 
you will see at once that the Sacramental System opposes this de- 
finitely. No part of God's creation is bad : every part of it can be 
used by God for the most spiritual purposes. The results, on the 
other hand, of the false doctrine have been, very bad indeed. Men, 
by dint of thinking that matter and the body were bad, have de- 
veloped a sort of insane hatred of them, and have gone so far in their 
desire to be rid of them as even to commit suicide. Or again, since 
they saw that they had not the strength thus to inflict pain and denial 
upon themselves consistently, they took refuge in the notion that 
their body was not really part of themselves at all, but that the real 
" self " resided somehow inside the body, like a jewel in an ugly and 
filthy case or shell ; and so they said that it could not really matter 
what their body did, because it was not really " they." They could 
then allow the body to indulge in every kind of debauchery, while 
still maintaining that their soul, or " self/' was living a lofty and holy 
life. The sacramental doctrine of the Church prevents both these 
disastrous notions taking root amongst us. Even were the body no 
more than the shell of the soul, it has to be treated with extreme 
respect, and kept holy and pure, because it contains so precious a 
thing. But it is more than the soul's shell : along with the soul it 
constitutes " man " : and so, body must be saved no less than soul, 
and by means of bodily or material things the living man is ap- 
proached and may be helped as well as by spiritual things. We 
thank God that this is so : were it not, we might despair. 

When I said that the sacramental " system " also implies that 
the actual Sacraments can be arranged in an " order " of an intelli- 
gible sort, I meant that they could be thought of by us, in proportion 
as we understand them better, in that sort of way. Thus, there is 
obviously such a thing as natural life the life by which we all of us 
live by dint of being born and not having yet died. In the essay 
on Grace you have seen that God has freely willed to make to man 
a " free gift " (which is what the word Grace really means), namely, 
a supernatural life which is in no way due to him. nor can be earned 
by him, but which involves a far greater happiness and well-being 
for him if he lives by it. Now just as a man requires to be born in 
order to live at all, so must he have a " new birth >J if he is to begin 
to live by this " new life." This New Birth is given by the first 
Sacrament, Baptism. After a while, boys and girls beg;in to " grow 
up " : they take stock of their position and responsibilities : also, 
their bodies and their minds change in many ways, and their human 
nature may be described as being " completed." They also require 
not a little strengthening, body and mind, during this period. In 
many ways the Sacrament of Confirmation may be regarded as ful- 
filling a like " completing " function in the supernatural life : it does 
not give that life, but it completes and establishes it, and St Thomas 
compares it to adolescence. As life proceeds, it is normal for men 


and women to go even further in the completing of their human life, 
by joining another life to their own in marriage. The Church does 
not substitute anything for human marriage, but it so infuses grace 
into and through the Christian marriage contract as to raise it to 
the dignity of a Sacrament, and a supernatural element enters into 
this great human crisis-in-life. Within the Christian Church, how- 
ever, men may be called to consecrate their lives to the immediate 
service of God as priests. This choice and vocation are of such 
overwhelming importance, and so unlike anything else, that we are 
not surprised to see that Ordination, in the Catholic Church, is a 
Sacrament too, not merely a setting aside of a man for a special duty. 
But for the proper maintenance of any part of life, appropriate food 
has to be given : for the maintenance and development of the super- 
natural life it will be seen that there is in the Church a unique and 
a uniquely appropriate food, the Eucharist. Again, a man may fall 
sick : he thereupon requires doctoring : there is in the Church a 
Sacrament instituted precisely for the purpose of healing even the 
gravest sicknesses of the soul, which are all due to sin. But after 
all, no human life lasts for ever upon this earth : men die. When 
death is imminent, or probable, in how great a need does the spirit 
stand ! for the body and its brain can now no more assist it. At 
such an hour the supernatural life, too, runs its grave risks ; and the 
" Last Sacraments " are there to succour it. 

Thus it will be seen that the Sacraments can all be thought of 
under the heading, or general idea, of " Life " and its needs. In, 
this way their unity of purpose and order in action can be clearly 
seen, and more easily appreciated and remembered. 

I have now to enter with somewhat more detail into the Catholic 
teaching concerning the various elements that make up a " Sacra- 


IT used to be said that the Sacraments, as Catholics understand them, 
were medieval inventions. Research showed that St Augustine, 
who died in 430, taught a fully " sacramental " theology. He was 
therefore said to be the guilty innovator. Finally it is clear that 
well before his time, in fact from the beginning, the Church contained 
the fact and, better than that, the use of those things which we now 
call Sacraments. 

That the Sacraments always included and could not but include 
the Cement of c< sign," " symbol," is evident. The water used in 
baptism symbolised at once the washing away of spiritual stains : 
also, as St Paul saw, it symbolised (especially when the candidate 
for baptism was often, though not always, immersed in the baptismal 
water) the complete passing away of the " old man," the merely 
natural man, and the emergence of the New Man, the supernatural 


self. The " bath " is a " bath of second and new birth. ^ The 
Eucharlstic meal symbolised forthwith a unity among Christians, 
in charity, which any common meal, taken among men, naturally 
symbolises even in our Western world, and still more in the Eastern 
one. The Bread, one loaf of many grains, symbolised that mystical 
Body of Christ which the Church is. And the Breaking of the 
Bread, the Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross ; and again, the par- 
ticipation of all in that one Bread, the fellowship of Christians in 
Christ himself. The wine, again, so manifestly symbolised Christ's 
Blood outpoured in sacrifice, that the heresy of the Aquarians, who 
wished to use water instead of wine, stood condemned, if for no 
other reason, because the "sign " provided by the wine ^ thus dis- 
appeared. The " imposition of hands," used in Confirmation and in 
Ordination, was even more obviously a sign of the giving of the Holy 
Ghost when the metaphor of " God's Right Hand/' meaning that 
same Holy Ghost, was more in use than it is now. The hand, 
issuing from clouds, so common in ancient days, was at once recog- 
nised as meaning the Holy Spirit ; when the priest to-day, at the 
Blessing of the Font, plunges his hand into the water, this symbolises 
the same thing the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Oil, used in Con- 
firmation, Ordination, and in the Sacrament of the Sick, also carried 
an obvious symbolical value both to Jewish and ex-pagan converts. 
For, among the Jews, the olive had always gone along with the vine 
and the fig-tree as a symbol of prosperity, and oil had been poured on 
those who were consecrated to kingship and so forth, in sign of the 
gift of the richness of God's blessing. Among the Greeks, its use 
by athletes at once connected it with the idea of suppleness and 
strength. Marriage, even natural marriage among pagans, had 
always been fenced about with ceremonies expressive of union, even 
when that union was far rather one of possession by the man than 
of true union between two. But the very event of a marriage, neces- 
sarily expressing itself outwardly, enabled St Paul to present it as the 
sign and symbol of a far higher union, that between Christ and his 
Church, and indeed the metaphor of Espousal as applied to the union 
between God and the chosen people, or God and the individual 
soul, was quite ancient and familiar. Finally, the whole concrete 
behaviour of penitent and priest could not but express, exteriorly, 
the spiritual events of forgiveness and restoration to grace. 

Naturally enough, those Sacraments which were not only most 
necessary, but whose institution was most vividly described in 
Scripture, and whose material element was most obvious, such as 
water, bread and wine, were most dwelt upon by early writers ; and, 
again naturally enough, the idea of their symbolic character was 
chiefly worked out in a place like Alexandria, where people tended to 
see signs in almost everything, and attached symbolical values to 
the most concrete historical events. The Latin world was far less 
inclined to look below the surface of things, yet here too from the 

Matter and 
form of 


are causes 


beginning the " sign " value of Sacramental transactions is perfectly 

St Augustine, who was very fond of working out the notion of 
God's " traces " in nature even in connection with such doctrines 
as the Holy Trinity naturally elaborates the meaning of " signs " 
in general. He says that a " sign " is a thing which, because of its 
outward form which it thrusts upon the senses, makes something 
else, by its own nature, come into the mind. A Sacrament, then, 
he says, is a " sacred sign of a spiritual object." It is a natural object 
that evokes the idea of, because picturing, a spiritual object. Of 
course he says much more than this ; but we are keeping close to 
the " sign-element " in Sacraments. 

As the Middle Ages began to dawn, it was seen that men were 
insisting rather upon the " mystery-element " in Sacraments, i.e., of 
the hiddenness of what was in them, rather than on the manifesting 
of the spiritual and invisible by the material and visible. But the 
balance soon swung back, or rather, reached a good equilibrium 
in Sacraments was seen both the outward sign, and the inward thing 
that was symbolised. The thing by its nature was " secret," because 
invisible ; but it was meant to become visible by means of what 
signified its presence. 

I might perhaps just mention here that you may often read the 
phrase " the matter and the form " of the Sacraments. This is a 
philosophical notion that need not really delay us. In practice it 
means that the exterior element in the Sacraments can be seen as 
consisting of two parts, one more general, like the water in baptism 
for water can stand for all sorts of things, as oil can, or bread 
and the other more specifical and more accurately expressing what 
the general symbol really stands for in the circumstances ; this 
second part consists of words or their equivalent actions : thus " I 
baptise thee " shows for what, precisely, the water is being used, and 
what, in consequence, it symbolises : something more is required 
than the mere fact of meeting and living together, to show that a 
man and woman really mean to be husband and wife. And so for 
the rest. 

These philosophical terms, derived from Aristotle, have been 
found useful, so as to make clear what are the essential elements of 
the sacramental sign, i.e., what is necessary for the validity of the 

So far, then, it is at least clear how foolish are they who talk 
about Catholic Sacraments as " meaningless bits of ritual " and so 
forth. They include ritual ; but since they are essentially and from 
the nature of the case signs, they cannot possibly be " meaningless." 

We have, however, insisted that the Sacraments are a very special 
sort of " sign." They are not mere pictures. The essence of the 
matter is seen in phrases like : " you are saved by means of the bath 
of New Birth." " The grace which is in thee by means of the im- 


position of my hands." If I decide to become a Christian, and then 
go through a ceremony to show that I have acted on my decision, 
that ceremony is a sign of my decision, but need not be anything 
else. If I went to Holy Communion, and it made me remember 
the Passion, and this memory touched my heart, my act of Com- 
munion might well count as a " commemoration 3> of the Passion, 
which occasioned my having religious sentiments, but it still would 
not be more than an exterior commemoration, even symbolical, 
of a past event, such as my touching my hat when I pass the Cenotaph, 
which may well fill me with affectionate or patriotic emotions and 
resolves. Nay, even though on the occasion of my doing this or that, 
God gives me grace, the thing that I do remains merely the occasion 
of that gift. Thus I might do a kind act to a sick man, and on 
occasion of this God might bless and help me. But the doing of 
that act would not be a Sacrament. You see then the difference 
between a sign which is a mere representation of something else ; 
and a sign of something invisible which is the mere occasion of my 
obtaining that invisible thing ; and a sign which is that by means of 
which I obtain the invisible thing it symbolises. It is in this last 
sense that the Sacraments are Signs. 

Since the perfectly definite " by means of " so clearly to be read 
in the Scriptures, and the almost violent description of the effects 
produced by good or bad Communions., given by St Paul (i Cor. xi), 
there could be no doubt as to the work done by the Sacramental 
Signs, which become, as Origen says (about 250 A.D.), symbols which 
are the " origin and fount " of the invisible thing they symbolise. 
The notion became clear precisely by way of that double nature of 
man on which we have already insisted. The Sacrament was one 
thing, and yet it reached and affected both elements in man, the in- 
visible spiritual soul no less than the body. When these very early 
writers asked themselves how this might be, they contented themselves 
on the whole by answering : " By means of the Spirit or Power of 
God, working in " the water, and so forth. The fact that a Sacra- 
ment is an efficacious symbol, as we now say, was then clearly realised 
well before Augustine. Cyprian, indeed, insists that the Eucharist 
at once symbolises, and is, the Sacrifice of Christ ; it is a representa- 
tion which contains the reality. In Augustine, the notion of efficacy 
is so strong that he keeps saying that in the Sacrament it is Christ 
who acts ; Christ who washes ; Christ who cleanses. But it could 
still be argued that Augustine does not make clear the difference 
between a divine action on the occasion of a sacramental rite carried 
through and a divine action so bound to the rite that it is done through 
and by means of it. But you can see from an examination of his whole 
mind that if you had asked him directly this question : Am I given 
grace by means of the Sacrament ? he would have answered : Yes. 
But as language became ever more exact, keeping pace with thought 
ever more accurate, the nature of the bond between the divine action 


and the sacramental sign become perfectly clear. Hugh of St Victor 
(c. 1140) says : A Sacrament is a corporal or material element, set 
forth exteriorly to the senses, which by its similarity portrays, and 
by its institution means, and by blessing contains, some invisible and 
spiritual grace. While Peter Lombard (c. 1150) says even more 
clearly : A Sacrament is properly so called because it is the sign of 
the grace of God, and the expression of invisible grace, in such a way 
as to be not only its image, but its cause. 

What perhaps helped more swiftly than anything else to make 
this nature of a Sacrament " efficacious sign JJ quite clear, was 
a series of three questions : What exactly is it that is done to us by 
our using a Sacrament ? Who can administer a Sacrament ? if not 
just anyone, how far does the effect of the Sacrament depend on 
the person of its minister ? and how far do my personal dispositions 
enter into the affair ? does the good result obtained from using a 
Sacrament depend upon me ? Many details of the answers to be 
given to these questions belong to other essays which deal with the 
Sacraments severally. Here I need do little more than get at the 
various principles involved, illustrating them by allusion to the several 
Sacraments rather than examining each Sacrament separately. 
Causes of The answer to the first question What does the (due) use of a 

Sanctification Sacrament bring about in me ? was easily and immediately answered 
Sanctification. Baptism was from the very words of Christ seen 
to be absolutely necessary if the soul was to be saved at all. But 
salvation comes through grace and only through grace. Therefore 
sanctifying Grace is what is given through the use of the Sacraments. 
I need but add one point here. This grace is, quite simply, a divine 
life infused into the soul a supernatural union with God. Grace 
then is always and everywhere one and the same thing. But Grace 
may be given to a soul in which grace is not as to the unbaptised, 
or again, to those who by mortal sin have lost grace ; or, more grace 
may be given to those who already possess grace. There may be 
the first infusion of Grace, or the restoration of Grace, or the ever 
renewed intensification of Grace. Already, then, you can see that 
though the gift be, in all the Sacraments, one and the same thing, 
yet it may be given in various circumstances, and in fact is variously 
given according to the circumstances of those using the various 
Sacraments for example, Baptism, Penance, or Confirmation. 
However, this is not the only difference between Sacraments. 
Marriage and Ordination, for example, are not just means of pro- 
viding more grace to people who happen to be going to get married 
or be ordained. They are meant to provide them with grace because 
they are going to be married or ordained ; that is, grace so acting 
as to help them in their circumstances to sanctify them precisely 
as married people or as priests. That is, grace is given not just in 
general, but in view of the state upon which its recipients are entering 


or in which they live and need special assistance. Baptism gives 
the first grace of all which unites a man to God through Christ : 
Confirmation establishes him in this : Penance restores a man to that 
supernatural life if he have lost it : the special needs of the married 
or of the clergy are obvious ; so, too, are those of the sick : all our 
life through we have need of more and more grace, especially in 
difficult moments, and we gain it supremely through Holy Com- 
munion. This special grace is called " sacramental grace," to dis- 
tinguish it from " sanctifying " grace at large. 

The fact that the whole existence of the Sacraments, and of each Christ the 
Sacrament, is concerned with the giving of Grace, involves a point author of the 
so important that it may be touched on here. It is, that the Sacra- acramen s 
ments were instituted by Christ. Historically, this fact became 
emphasised for the very reason that we have been giving. It was 
because the Sacraments give grace that men saw, and insisted on, 
the fact that they were instituted by Christ ; it was not because 
they were instituted by Christ that men concluded they gave grace. 
Both ways of looking at the thing can be true ; but the former was 
the way in which men first and chiefly looked at it. The Sacraments 
give grace. But Grace is only given by God through the merits of 
Jesus Christ. Therefore if the gift of Grace is so annexed to the 
Sacraments as to make them (anyhow in the case of baptism) an 
instrument of salvation, they must have been of divine institution : 
but since everything in the Church, that is essential and substantial, 
was created by Christ himself upon earth, therefore the Sacraments 
were instituted not just by God, but by the God-Man, Christ. 

Not that such a statement settles a variety of subsidiary questions, 
any more than the definition of the Council of Trent does, which 
simply states that the Sacraments were " all of them instituted by 
Jesus Christ " ; and even the Modernist errors condemned by 
Pius X can be grouped under the general notion that it was not Christ 
who instituted the Sacraments in any real sense, but that they grew 
up under pressure of circumstances, either in the time of the Apostles 
or even after it, and began by being mere rites of various sorts, quite 
different in nature from anything we have been talking about. 

This clumsy notion is as alien to facts as would be the idea that 
for a Sacrament to have been instituted by Christ, it was neces- 
sary for Christ personally and in so many words to institute it just 
as it is at present carried out in the liturgy of the Church. The earlier 
writers of the Church did not go into details on the subject : no one 
ever disputed that Baptism and the Eucharist were instituted by 
Christ in person and in a form from which the Church must never 
recede. But it was usually through something else that the point 
was reached and the fact asserted I mean, for example, it was the 
habit of the Gnostics to appeal to a kind of inner light, as settling 
truth and right, which drove an Ircnaeus to insist that the proper 
guardian of truth was the episcopate, whose origin was Christ himself 


by way of the Apostles, though Ignatius had already been clear 
enough on the subject. 1 But when it began to be thought that the 
administration of the Sacraments or at least their " matter and form " 
must always remain, and have remained, unchanged in every way, 
then writers were either forced to assert that Christ had so instituted 
them in person, or, since that would be very difficult and in fact 
impossible to show, that he need not have instituted them in person 
at all, but that, for example, the Holy Ghost, not Christ, instituted 
Confirmation, and a Church council in the ninth century instituted 
Penance (so Alexander of Hales, c. 1245). In this department, 
Dominican and Franciscan schools of thought seem to have clashed 
not a little, the Franciscan ones going too far away from the doctrine 
of institution by Christ himself St Bonaventure, for example, allow- 
ing that Confirmation and Unction might have been instituted either 
by the Apostles or immediately after their death, though by divine 
authority. There was, however, current the idea that Christ might 
have instituted the Sacraments quite generally, and no more that 
is, have appointed the divine effect, leaving the method of its ob- 
taining to the arrangement of his Church. The real point is reached 
when one sees that a man can be described as " instituting " a thing 
whether he does so in detail, or whether he initiates a thing only " in 
the rough," and leaves the working out of it to others. 

Take the case of Confirmation. You could, conceivably, imagine 
Christ saying : " When a man has been baptised, lay your hands 
on him and anoint him with oil, saying certain words : this sign will 
produce grace in him, such as to * confirm ? him and * complete ' 
his baptism." Or, " When a man has been, baptised, he will require 
to be ( confirmed * : do this by some suitable sign." Though the 
Council of Trent has defined that all the Sacraments were instituted 
by Christ, which settles for us that they were not merely invented 
by the Apostles, nor merely grew up under pressure of circumstances, 
yet that Council does not state in what way exactly they were in- 
stituted by Christ. It does aot, to start with, follow that they were 
all instituted in the same way. But it would never be admitted by 
a Catholic theologian, and should not be asserted by any historian, 
that Christ merely gave the Apostles some vague hint that there were 
to be transactions of a sacramental sort in his Church, and then left 
them to do what they thought best in the matter. Apart from all 
other considerations, a historian would, I think, see that the older 
Apostles were so very conservative and among them all, perhaps, 
St James the most conservative that they would never have started 
anything at all unless they were quite sure that Christ meant them 
to do exactly that. Hence since no one ought to dispute that Baptism 
and the Eucharist were instituted immediately and explicitly by 
Christ himself ; and since the Apostles immediately began to confirm 
and to ordain ; and since it was precisely St James who promulgated 

1 Irenaeus fl. about 140-300 ; Ignatius, t 107. 


what was to be done in the way of anointing the sick ; and since 
it was St Paul (who positively piqued himself on not being an in- 
novator) who declares the sacramental value of Christian marriage ; 
and given Christ's assertion that those sins which the Apostles re- 
mitted were remitted, and those that they retained were retained 
with the necessary consequence that they would be called upon at 
times to remit and to retain sins we are right to be morally certain, 
historically, that the Apostles had Christ's direct order to do, in 
substance, all those things which we now know as the administration 
of the Sacraments. 

Historically, then, we can show that all the Sacraments can be 
connected up -with something that Christ said ; and a foundation for 
the assertion that he instituted them can be found in his own words : 
the general behaviour and temperament of the Apostles bear out 
that herein they acted on some sort of mandate received from Christ 
in person : precisely in what way he gave it, save in the case of 
Baptism and the Eucharist, we cannot ever know. What further is 
certain is that the Church cannot substantially alter anything that 
he instituted, though in what precisely the substance of the material 
element of the Sacrament, by his order, consists, again can be matter 
for discussion. What the Church has the perfect right to do is to 
ordain that a Sacrament has now to be administered in such and 
such a way, under pain of its being illicitly or even invalidly ad- 
ministered. Thus the Church can add conditions t,o the administer- 
ing of the Sacraments, but she cannot subtract anything in them that 
is of Christ's ordaining and has been substantial in them from the 

Our purpose is rather the explanation of Catholic doctrine than The 
the refutation of false doctrines. It is however so often said, nowa- Sacraments 
days, that St Paul practically invented the Sacraments by introducing 
into certain current practices quite new ideas, that this theory has 
to be glanced at. I might notice, in passing, how far things have 
travelled since the time when the Sacraments were called " medieval 
accretions." So thoroughly " sacramental " is the earliest Church 
seen to have been, that no one short of St Paul is appealed to as the 
originator of Sacraments. Paul therefore is said to have borrowed 
religious terms and notions from the " mystery-cults " of the con- 
temporary pagans. These mystery religions involved the exercise 
of a great deal of magical ritual (magic is spoken of briefly below) 
and the recitation of formulas, so that the " initiate," as he was called, 
became on the one hand much impressed by the uncanny spectacles 
he had seen, and, on the other, was convinced he now was guaran- 
teed to escape the dangers in the next world which were calculated 
to befall one who found himself there without some such magical 
preliminary. In more philosophical forms of these cults, a good 
deal of allegory was introduced, and a more philosophical initiate 
might maintain that in some sense he was incorporated with the 


god in whose honour the mystery was celebrated. Indeed, the god's 
history might be enacted during the celebration by means of a 
symbolical dance or other piece of ritual. Briefly : Paul knew of, 
as did everyone, the existence and general nature of mystery-cults, 
and once or twice remotely alludes, with contempt, to them. The 
rule observed by himself, St John, and early Christians in general, 
with regard to pagan forms of worship, was to keep from all contact 
with them : their abhorrence of them was almost ferocious.^ Paul 
does not use any of the characteristic words of the mystery-religions ; 
he insists that he introduced nothing into the Christian creed or 
code that was new save, if you will, the emphasis laid by him on 
the truth that non-Jews were to be admitted as freely into the Church 
as Jews were, and that none of them had to observe the Jewish ritual. 
The mysteries moreover were expensive affairs, and reserved for a 
small minority who were pledged under secrecy to reveal nothing 
that they experienced ; Christianity on the other hand was for all. 
Christianity was a doctrine ; there was no doctrine in the mysteries 
they affected not the intelligence, but the imagination and the 
nerves. The whole method and effect of the mysteries was 
" magical " you recited the due formula, performed the proper 
programme, and the effects occurred automatically. There was 
nothing moral about the mysteries, the purity you there gained was 
merely a ritual one in the concrete the celebration of the mysteries 
was anything but pure : one writer has called them a mixture of 
shambles and brothel. If anyone imagines that Paul is going de- 
liberately to borrow or even unconsciously to absorb anything from 
such a source, with which to improve the Faith to which he had 
turned, we abandon such a critic as foolish, or, as determined to 
discover at any and every cost some non-Christian source for the 
Christian Sacraments. 

The minister The Sacraments therefore receive their efficacy from Christ. 

of the what then is the role played by the " minister " of the Sacrament ? 

Sacraments ^ ^^ ^ you cannot k ap ti se nor confirm nor ordain nor anoint 
nor absolve yourself, nor can a layman at any rate consecrate the 
Eucharist ; and though the man and the woman are the ministers, 
each to the other, of the sacrament of Marriage, yet each does require 
the other, and obviously cannot administer that Sacrament to himself 
by himself. 

Again, the role of the minister in the administration of Sacra- 
ments did not come up on, so to say, its own merits, but, because of 
the claim of heretics to administer the Sacraments equally with the 
orthodox. This claim seemed so horrible to certain groups, or to 
fierce-tempered individuals like the African Cyprian that, on the 
grounds that where the Church was not, the Holy Spirit was not, 
and where he was not, nothing of a sanctifying nature could exist, 
and therefore not the Sacraments, they denied to heretic ministers 
the power to administer any Sacrament whatsoever validly. This 


dispute will be found explained, and the course it took, in the pages 
of this volume dealing with the Sacrament of Baptism. But behind 
that dispute existed the universally admitted certainty, that a proper 
minister is necessary in the case of each and every Sacrament, and 
the dispute really turned upon the question Who was the proper 
one ? It was, all admitted, the " word " of the proper minister that 
made the bread to be Christ's Body, that made the water to be no 
mere water, but baptismal water. This conjunction of the word 
with the thing, so that a moral whole was created, supplied that due 
material element through which the Spirit of God could act. But 
the minister was not ever regarded simply as a man. Had he been so 
regarded, certainly much might have turned upon his moral or mental 
dispositions. But he was definitely regarded as representing, in his 
person, the Church ; and the Church was the continuation of Christ, 
and the dwelling-place of his Spirit. Therefore, albeit it was a man 
who spoke the words, Christ spoke through them " Christ cleanses." 

It is therefore certain that the moral condition of the minister 
of the Sacrament does not interfere with its validity on its own 
account. The mere fact that his soul has sin in it, does not render 
him useless as an instrument in the hands of the Church and of 
Christ, for the " making " of the Sacrament. It is desirable, in 
every way, that a priest, for example, should be a holy and even a 
cultured man. But the fact that he is immoral, or boorish, cannot 
affect the Sacrament as such. Certainly a devout priest will obtain, 
by his holiness and the fervour of his prayer, additional grace for 
those on whose behalf he administers a Sacrament ; but this is a 
consideration exterior to the essence of the Sacrament itself. Simi- 
larly, two people who intend to get married and go through the 
marriage ceremony in proper circumstances, may, if they be frivolous, 
obtain little enough actual grace, but they will be truly married, 
and have administered to one another the Sacrament. It is very 
important even here to distinguish between a valid Sacrament and 
a fruitful one. 

Is there, then, no way in which the minister can interfere with the The intention 
validity of the rite he accomplishes ? Certainly, but only one //^ 
that is, by not " intending " to accomplish a Sacramental rite at all, mims ** 
even though he goes through the ritual quite scrupulously. Illus- 
trate this as follows. If an unbaptised person says to me : I do not 
intend to become a Christian, but I wish you would show me how 
people are baptised. And if I were to answer : Very well. I do 
not intend to baptise you ; but were I to do so, this is how I would 
do it and proceeded to pour the water, pronouncing the words. 
I did not mean to baptise the person, and the person did not intend 
to be baptised ; therefore I did not baptise him despite the complete 
performance of the ritual. After all, this is the merest common 
sense. In just the same way, if a woman, for example, is forced to 
go through a marriage ceremony, and does so, but does not intend 


that her submission to the rite should mean a real marriage, married 
she is not. Observe what a denial of this would imply. It would 
mean that a woman could be married off, willy nilly, like a head of 
cattle. All civilised persons would reject so barbarous a notion. 

However, just what sort of intention must the minister have ? 
He must have "the intention of doing what the Church does." 
The Council of Trent, while defining that intention was necessary, 
did not settle whether a purely external intention of doing the rite 
properly sufficed, or whether some deeper kind of intention was 
needed too. It is at least certain that the minister need not personally 
believe that the Church's doctrine is true : provided he intends to do 
what the Church does, whatever that may be, he does do it. Of 
course, if the minister intends, positively, to do something different 
from what the Church does, he has not the requisite intention : I 
mention this, because while the ordaining bishops in the days of 
the Protestant revolution in this country would undoubtedly have 
said that they meant to do what Christ did when ordaining, and 
therefore, what his true Church did, yet they meant definitely not 
to create sacrificing-priests in the old sense ; therefore they did 
not create them. Add to this that by changing the rite they 
showed that they had not the slightest intention of making priests 
in the old sense. So, owing to this lack of due intention (as well 
as for other reasons), the old sort of priest was not made. The 
traditional sort of Order was no more given. 
Dispositions This leads us to the final question, How far do the dispositions 
of the o f the recipient of the Sacrament affect its work in his soul ? The 

question was most urgently asked when the Reformers began to say 
that nothing save the dispositions of the recipient mattered. There 
could be two extremes one, where the action of the Sacrament 
would be described as purely mechanical ; carry the rite through, 
and then, whatever be your interior dispositions, its effect is pro- 
duced ; this would be the extreme of " magic " : the other extreme 
would involve (as among many of the Reformers it actually did) the 
assertion that the minister and the form of administration mattered 
nothing at all ; all that mattered was the faith of the recipient : 
this would be complete subjectivism. Anyhow the question, so far 
as Catholic doctrine goes, has already been half answered above. 
If the subject to whom the sacramental rite is administered does not 
in any sense intend to receive the Sacrament, he does not receive it. 
I say, " in any sense," because there can be such a thing as a virtual 
intention . the recipient may be distracted at the moment and not 
think about what he is doing ; or (in the case, for example, of Penance 
and the Eucharist) the action may have become so customary that 
he does what he does without reflecting on the nature of his action 
at all. However, were you to interrupt, and ask him what he in- 
tends to be doing, he would answer that he means to be getting 
absolved, or to be receiving Communion. He has therefore a 


virtual intention, and validly, so far as that Is concerned, receives 
the Sacrament in question. Even an habitual intention an inten- 
tion once made and never retracted suffices for the valid reception 
of any Sacrament except Penance and Matrimony, which, by reason 
of their special nature, require at least a virtual intention in their 

The special question of Baptism being given to children is treated 
of in the essay upon that Sacrament. Enough here to say that the 
will of the Church, and in a sense of the parents or sponsors, creates 
a social solidarity such that the child, embedded therein, can be 
answered for by that will. 

But the real problem arises when a man approaches a Sacrament Obstacles to 
with such dispositions as to present an obstacle to grace. Such race 
obstacle, in the case of the " Sacraments of the Living/' * would be 
conscious mortal sin ; in the case of the " Sacraments of the Dead," 
unrepented mortal sin. The question is particularly important for 
those Sacraments which cannot be repeated i.e., Baptism, Confirma- 
tion, Order and Matrimony (which cannot be repeated, at any rate, 
while the matrimonial bond persists). If I approach these sacra- 
ments with an obstacle to grace, yet desiring to receive the Sacrament, 
I am indeed validly baptised, confirmed, ordained, or married, but, 
I cannot actually receive grace (which is the union of the soul with 
God), since I am all the while resolving to be disunited from him. 
What then happens ? Theologians teach that the grace of the 
Sacrament is produced in my soul when I remove the obstacle set 
by my evil will. 

Does this then mean that the whole of the effects of the Sacra- Effects 
naents are achieved within me if I merely interpose no obstacle of "* x P e ,, 

. _. ^ . J 7 Y jj operantis 

evil will to those eliects r Is grace given wholly ex opere operate, 
as they say by means of the work done ? the mere subjecting myself 
to a certain rite ? By no means. There is also the effect which 
comes " ex opere operantis," which means, through the effort I 
myself put into the transaction. If I approach a Sacrament without 
an obstacle to grace indeed, yet dully, Grace will no doubt reach me : 
but if I approach it with, so to say, an appetite, Grace will be appro- 
priated and assimilated by me far more richly. All our Christian 
religious life, and our sacramental life most certainly, is in reality 
co-operative. The special feature about Christ's activity is, that it 
always comes first the very impulse to seek or desire a Sacrament 
or any other good thing comes from God before it exists in our 
own heart ; and that it creates, and creates what is supernatural, 
whereas our own best efforts, unaided, cannot create more than what 
is commensurate to them, that is, what is natural. I cannot lift 
myself up by the hair of nay own head. 

1 The Sacraments of the Living are those which presuppose the state 
of grace in the recipient -i.e., all the sacraments except Baptism and Penance, 
which two are called Sacraments of the Dead. 




Three Sacraments, then, produce an effect such that they cannot 
be repeated. They impress upon the soul what is called a " Char- 
acter," or seal. The sacramental " Character " is not grace, but is 
a separate effect produced in the soul by the three sacraments of 
Baptism, Confirmation, and Order. They place my soul _ for ever 
in a special relation to Christ, and I cannot be replaced in it. I am 
for ever a baptised, confirmed, or ordained person. Even apostasy 
cannot alter this fact. Even though, by my evil will, I prevent the 
Sacrament from producing grace within me, yet I cannot prevent it 
from producing this " Character," if I will to receive the Sacrament 
validly at all. The theory of the Sacramental Character followed on 
the Church's consistent practice of not re-baptising, re-confirming, 
re-ordaining anyone who had properly been baptised and the rest. 
The controversies on this matter concerned, not the principle^ but 
the concrete question whether so and so had been properly baptised, 
and the rest. I think that further discussion of these points, and of 
allied speculations, is now unnecessary. 

Certain critics of the Catholic Faith and practice are never tired 
o f denouncing the Sacraments as pieces of " magic.*' It is seen by 
> now j 1QW wron g at every point they are. A magical transaction 
would be of the following nature. I repeat a formula, or perform 
an act, like " Open Sesame ! " or, sticking pins into a wax figure of 
my enemy, either without knowing why, or merely because someone 
whom I consider to know why tells me to. Automatically, an effect 
takes place, such as a door opening, or the sickness and death of 
my foe. All I have to do is to carry my part through with mechanical 
accuracy. In the use of a Sacrament, first of all, the rite means 
something : it is a sign. Further, I use that rite because Christ, 
the Son of God, appointed it and told me to use it. Further, I do so, 
not because there are any mechanical consequences attached to it, 
but because it is the cause in me of Grace, a purely supernatural 
thing of which God alone is the origin and giver. Again, he who 
administers to me that rite, does not do so in any private capacity, 
nor because he has the key to certain spells or pieces of esoteric 
knowledge, but because he acts as the Church's minister, and she 
acts in him, and Christ acts in her. Finally, whether or no the 
Sacrament be fruitful in me depends on my intention and will, 
wholly or in part. Hence at no point do a magical transaction and a 
sacramental transaction coincide. 

Synopsis of Before concluding, it may be of service to summarise the teaching 
the teaching t ^ e Council of Trent, our classical source of information, upon 
" the Sacraments in general. That Council denounces those who 
should say that the Sacraments of the New Law were not, all of them, 
instituted by Christ, or, that they are more, or fewer, than the seven 
often enumerated above. That any of these is not a true and proper 
Sacrament. That these Christian Sacraments differ in no way from 
Old Testament Sacraments save in their ceremonial. (Observe, 


that this implies that there were Sacraments under the Old Law, but 
that they were different from ours. The main differences are, that 
the Old Testament Sacraments were indeed Signs instituted by God, 
but that they looked forward to and promised the Grace of Christ, 
yet did not impart it : in so far as they were efficacious signs, they 
effected not a moral, but a legal and ritual purity.) The Council 
proceeds to denounce anyone who says that the Seven Sacraments 
are all of them on an equal footing, so that none is in any way nobler 
than another (clearly Baptism, an absolutely necessary Sacrament, 
is on a different footing from Marriage or Ordination, since no one 
is obliged to get married or ordained). That the Sacraments of the 
New Law are not necessary for salvation, but superfluous, and that 
without them or the desire of them a man obtains the grace of 
justification from God by means of faith alone. Not, the Council 
adds, that all the Sacraments are necessary for each and every man. 
The allusion to the " desire " for a Sacrament alludes primarily to 
" baptism by desire," which is explained in the essay on Baptism : 
briefly, it means that if a man does not know of Baptism, he can (by 
means of an act of perfect charity, that is, of love of God for his 
own sake, and of detestation of sin for his sake, with the implied 
readiness to do all that God might command him, if he knew it) 
obtain grace and salvation. Similarly, if he knows of Baptism, and 
wishes for it, and cannot obtain, e.g. anyone to baptise him, or water, 
he can cleanse his soul from sin, as I have just explained. The 
" faith " alluded to by the Council means faith as Protestants con- 
ceived of it, i.e. trust. The Council further denounces one who 
should say that Sacraments exist only in order to nourish faith in the 
recipient. That they do not contain the Grace that they signify, 
or do not confer that grace upon those who interpose no obstacle, as 
though they were merely external signs of grace or justice, received 
by means of faith, or were mere marks, as it were, of the Christian 
profession, whereby believers might be distinguished from un- 
believers. Or that Grace is not always given, and to all, so far as 
God's action goes, even if the Sacrament be duly received ; but 
only sometimes, and to certain persons. (This regards the false 
Protestant doctrines of predestination, according to which God so 
predestines certain souls to hell, that no matter what they desire 
and do, they are not given Grace.) Or that Grace is not given 
through the Christian Sacraments " ex opere operate," but that 
sheer trust in the divine promise suffices for the obtaining of Grace. 
That the three Sacraments, Baptism, Confirmation, Order, do not 
impress a " character " on the soul, that is, a spiritual and indelible 
sign, so that these three Sacraments cannot be reiterated. Or that 
all Christians have power to celebrate and administer all the Sacra- 
ments. That the intention at least of doing what the Church does 
is not required in the ministers when they celebrate and impart the 
Sacraments. That a sinful minister, who observes all the essential 


elements in the celebration or imparting of a sacrament, yet does 
not celebrate or impart it at all. Finally, that the traditional Catholic 
rites, wherewith the Sacraments are surrounded, can be despised, 
omitted, or altered at the whim of any and every pastor. 

As for the errors of Modernism, condemned by Pius X, which 
concern the Sacraments, I have sufficiently indicated their general 
character. Those which touch upon the nature of Sacraments at 
large are, that the opinions concerning the origin of Sacraments, 
entertained by the Fathers of the Council of Trent and doubtless 
colouring their dogmatic decisions, are very different from those 
which are now rightly admitted by those who study the history of 
Christianity. That the Sacraments took their rise from the Apostles 
and their successors who interpreted some idea or intention of Christ 
according to the suggestion or impulse of circumstances. That the 
aim of Sacraments is merely to recall to men's minds the ever- 
beneficent presence of the Creator. 

How such doctrines fly in the face of the traditional Catholic 
dogma concerning the Sacraments must by now be clear. 


TURNING our eyes back, then, to those brief records of the life of 
Christ that the four Gospels are, we see that the Eternal Son of God 
was sent to redeem our race, and to elevate it to an unthinkably lofty 
state of union with its God, and was sent to do all this as Man, and 
by means of his manhood. We see that no thing that was in man 
did he despise : no human element did he fail to make his own. 
He did not, if I dare say so, just verify in himself the definition of 
" man," but in every way he lived as man in this our world of human 
men and women and of all material things. In his teaching he con- 
stantly helped himself, and his hearers, by using the things he saw 
around him for the conveying of his doctrine ; and submitted himself 
not only to the rich and meaningful ritual of the Law, and was cir- 
cumcised, and went to the Temple feasts, and observed the Pasch, 
and so forth, but spontaneously, for his own reasons, sought for and 
carried through an action that in his case seems to us almost uncalled- 
for. He was baptised by John. Thus Christ our Lord was human, 
and lived as man among men, and used all simple and human things 
during his life, and caught them up into his own spiritual life, and 
wove them into his teaching. 

Hence we are not surprised to find him saying that we too, his 
disciples, are to be dipped in water ; salvation is to come, not just 
to him who " believes," but to him who believes and is baptised. 
If we are surprised at anything herein, it is at the sudden increase 
of solemnity that invests his words when this topic of baptism arises. 
When after his resurrection he sends forth his Apostles to that world- 
wide, world-enduring work that he came to inaugurate, he bids them 


not only to baptise, but to do so in a manner that involves the in- 
vocation of the whole of the Most Blessed Trinity the Father,^ the 
Son, and the Spirit, are all knit into this tremendous act ; and into 
it, you would say, all that is, is taken up man's new birth, that 
transforms him from being child of earth into son of God, takes 
place by means of " water and the Spirit," the two in conjunction 
and co-operation : the new World of Grace is definitely seen in 
mysterious parallel with that first creation, when the Spirit of God 
was borne over the face of the watery abyss and earth took shape 
and the world grew into life. 

Along with this, at the most solemn hour of all, when he was 
about to leave the house where for the last time before his Passion he 
had eaten with the men he loved and chose, he orders them to do 
what he has just done to take bread, to bless and break it to take 
wine, and to bless it and then to partake in what has been blessed, 
because it is his Body and his Blood Himself. What should be 
the consequences of entering thus into himself, and receiving himself 
into us, if not the living by an intertwined life, his and ours ? We 
become " one thing " with him, even as he with the Father is " One 
Thing/' And if indeed it be true that without the New Birth by 
water and the Spirit, we cannot be said to live at all from the Christian 
point of view, so, in his words in the synagogue of Capharnaum, 
he insists and re-insists that without this eating of his Flesh and 
drinking of his Blood, we cannot maintain that new life, still less 
develop it and bring it to its consummation. 

There is another moment of exceptional solemnity when, 
breathing on his Apostles, he tells them that they now possess the 
Holy Ghost, and adds that the sins they remit, are remitted, and 
the sins that they retain, are likewise retained. Elsewhere, doubtless, 
he definitely wishes his Apostles to give a special, healing, Christian 
care to the sick ; and certainly he insists that the old permission for 
divorce, dating from Moses, was now to be regarded as over and done 
with, and indeed become impossible, for it is God, he says, that 
joins the hands and lives of those who marry. 

Sometimes, then, by solemn declarations, sometimes by gentle 
hints and suggestions, amplified, it may be, in unrecorded parts of 
his instruction during those Forty Days after his resurrection when 
he must have fulfilled his intention of telling them the " many 
things " that earlier they " could not bear," or, perhaps, left just as 
hints to men whom his Spirit was going to guide into using even his 
hints aright well, by grave asseverations, or by quiet suggestion, 
he prepared the Apostles for their work, and started them off on 
that career which was to be theirs, and which was to continue itself 
in all the Church's history. 

Pentecost comes : the Spirit is given, and the Apostolic Age of 
the Church's history begins. From the outset we see that there 
is one Gate into that Church Baptism. " Here is water ! What 


hinders me from being baptised ? " asks the convert officer. With- 
out the slightest question, Baptism follows upon conversion. This 
mighty action is installed upon the very highest plane : there is 
One Baptism just as there are one Faith, one Lord, one God. Into 
the baptismal laver we descend, just the men to whom our mothers 
gave life : we come forth therefrom, a New Creation, new-born, 
Christ-men : our lives are hid in Christ, and in us, Christ lives. 
And forthwith after Baptism we see the Apostles again without 
discussion " laying hands " upon the new Christian, and at once the 
Holy Ghost is given ; and similarly, when men are set apart for the 
Christian ministry, hands are laid upon them, the Holy Ghost 
descends, and a permanent gift exists within the man by means of 
this imposition of hands, so that it can be invoked, and stimulated 
by the will of him who has received it, for it is always there. 

Marriage, too, is declared by Paul to be a mighty " mystery," 
or symbol : henceforward it is not to be thought of save in terms of 
Christ and of his Church, between whom Grace has achieved an 
ineffable espousal ; and James, manifestly initiating nothing but 
setting order in and explaining a rite already familiar and authorita- 
tive, bids the sick to be anointed so that sins be forgiven them, and 
they be saved. And even in life, men can be (as St Paul's action 
with regard to the incestuous Corinthian proves) cut off from the 
body of the Church, handed over to Satan, and thereafter, on the 
Apostle's own terms, reinstated. 

Finally, yet with paramount dignity, the Breaking of Bread is 
established among Christians, and Paul leaves us in no doubt as to 
its meaning. It involves a real participation in the life and sacrifice 
of Christ, such that the soul, that shares in that Feast unworthily, 
becomes guilty in regard of the Body and Blood of Christ himself, 
and sickens to its death. The Eucharist is, in a unique sense, what 
it signifies. 

The Apostles passed : the Christians of the Early Church con- 
tinued happily heaven-wise happily in their human-wise tragic 
conditions living their Christian life ; living in company with 
Christ, and experiencing his presence, experiencing too those over- 
whelming gifts of the Spirit that were so necessary in days when 
there was no other accumulated experience such as we have, of what 
Christianity means and can do for men ; and using in all simplicity 
the practices that they had been taught to use. For a while there was 
little enough speculation, though even from the outset they began 
to draw conclusions sometimes exaggerated and mistaken ones, as 
when it seems pretty clear that some of St Paul's converts were so 
impressed by the " life " which they had understood was given by 
Baptism, that they were surprised and almost shocked when a con- 
vert died so much as physically, and anyway, felt sure that there must 
be some method of baptising, by proxy, those who had already died 
but would, they felt certain, have wished for baptism had they lived. 


Others soon enough were to surmise that Communion that " medi- 
cine that makes immortal 5> must confer even bodily iixcorruption ; 
and others, again, began to wonder whether the Holy Ghost did not 
somehow actually take up his dwelling in the baptismal water, and 
whether the reality in that water were not somehow similar to that 
veiled beneath the Eucharistic Bread- It will be noticed that all 
the mistakes lie on the side of reality, not of understatement, so very 
far were they from imagining that the Sacraments were mere ways 
of suggesting pious thoughts, of evoking faith, and so forth, or that 
the virtue of the Sacrament was wholly in the well-disposed recipient. 

Naturally, the two all-important Sacraments, Baptism and 
Eucharist, the necessary ingress into the Christian Life, and the un- 
utterably precious " daily bread " of the living soul, were what 
immediately and outstandingly occupied the minds of those who 
had, after all, constantly to make use of the latter when once they 
had made the vitally necessary use of the former. Naturally, too, 
I suppose, it was in, the Latin half of the Empire Africa, at any 
rate that attention was first notably given to the Sacrament of 
Penance that rectification of violated Law. The Romans always 
understood Law better than the Greeks did ; and the lawyer 
Tertullian, the first Christian thinker who wrote in Latin, began 
according to his temperament to think this topic out. Doubtless 
that same temperament, hard and even ferocious at times, caused him 
to err in his views of the merciful Sacrament : still, he rendered great 
services to those who were, more accurately, to follow him. At 
first it may seem strange that along with Penance, Confirmation 
claimed his more close attention. Yet not strange ; for Tertullian, 
personally, and like all good Roman men, was a soldier, and in the 
vigorous Sacrament he detected something that harmonised with his 
idea of what a Christian, militant in this antagonistic world, ought 
to be. 

Not much later, another African, Cyprian, again rendered great 
service to the better elucidation of the Sacraments of Baptism and 
of Order, because the tendency of his compatriots to split off into 
a mere nationalist church, forced his attention to all that concerned 
unity and schism ; and so passionate was his abhorrence of the latter, 
that inevitably he tended to deny to heretics and schismatics powers 
that they actually possessed, or could possess, those, that is, of or- 
daining and baptising. Here then the question of who was the due 
minister of these or of other Sacraments began to get aired, and 
again, of Intention ; and again, the fact of the non-repetition of 
Baptism, Confirmation, and Order, if once it could be shown that 
they had been properly conferred, struck out the clear notion of 
the sacramental Character or Seal ; while the deaths of unbaptised 
martyrs brought into the open the idea of baptism of blood, and by 
desire. Even the tremendous importance seen to belong to the 
Blessing given by the minister of a Sacrament, to the material 


element used in it, made a remote preparation for that theory of 
" matter and form " in Sacraments that was to have so great an 
historical importance later on. 

Thus little by little the thing that Christians had always possessed 
and serenely made use of, came to be better understood, more clearly 
described and defined, shielded against abuse, linked up with other 
parts of the Christian Faith and practice, and to take its place within 
that mighty system of Theology that the ages are still bringing 
towards perfection. 

The colossal figure of St Augustine dominated the imagination 
of the centuries that succeeded him : he did not complete the 
theology of the Sacraments ; but scattered up and down his works 
may be found practically all the elements that were to compose it. 
It was he, perhaps, that brought into prominence the action of Christ 
himself in the several Sacraments, and who developed the notion of 
Character, and again, of that revival of Grace of which we spoke, 
when an obstacle placed by the human will in the way of the fruitful 
effects of a validly administered Sacrament was at last removed. 
This cleared up most usefully the problem which confronted those 
who observed that heretics of a manifestly rebellious sort were or- 
daining priests, who themselves continued rebellious and ill-disposed. 
They had felt it was all or nothing either these ordinations were 
valid, and then it looked as if a contumacious rebel could confer 
grace upon another contumacious rebel ; or, that the ordination was 
not valid at all, and must be repeated when the heretic was converted. 
In its measure this problem had affected Confirmation too and 
even Baptism. However, the explanation that a Sacrament could 
indeed be valid and therefore produce the Character, although 
grace was excluded so long as the obstacle remained, 1 solved the 
difficulty, which returned however, when in the bad centuries of 
Europe the reformation of incontinent clergy which had obtained 
its ecclesiastical position by simony had to be thought of. The 
practical question of whether these men had to be re-ordained when 
they repented could be solved along Augustinian lines without much 

As I said, the theology of St Augustine contained in itself practi- 
cally all the elements of a complete treatise upon the Sacraments. 
Not much was left to do but to co-ordinate them. When therefore 
all the elements which compose a Sacrament in the strict sense 
were set before the eyes, it was easily enough seen that seven rites, 
and no more nor less, contained them all. Hence we are not to be 
surprised when we find that a writer so far forward in the Church's 
history as Peter Lombard (c* 1 150) was the first definitely to catalogue 
the Sacraments as Seven. Other rites were seen to approximate 
to them, and to contain some but not all of the requisite elements, 

1 There are theologians who suggest that all the Sacraments give grace 
that revives when an obstacle, set by sinful will, is removed. 


and could be called with greater or less accuracy Sacramentals, but 
not Sacraments. 

I think it may safely be said that after the Middle Ages little more 
that was constructive in sacramental theology was done. Certain 
points were cleared up the distinction between the opus operatum 
and the opus operantis was made explicit ; the kind of causality 
brought into play when a Sacrament was described as " causing " 
Grace was thought out, and so forth. Since then what has really 
happeried has been that the history of the several Sacraments has 
been far more closely studied, and the Catholic theory has been 
defended against attacks far more vigorous and definite than the old 
ones were. For of course the religious revolution of the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, with its claim to reinstate Christ in the 
position from, which the cultus of Saints, ritual, sacerdotalism, the 
Papal authority, and so forth were said to have dislodged him, did 
all that it could to discredit the Catholic doctrine with regard to 
Sacraments in particular. If you had to find one word in which 
to crystallise the Catholic sacramental tradition, I think it would be 
" Efficacy." The Sacraments are, as we see, efficacious of them- 
selves. It was this that the Reformers attacked. A Sacrament 
was an absolutely inert thing. They could not eliminate all the 
Sacraments (as a matter of fact, the Quakers did, as the Salvation 
Army to-day also does), but they got rid of five out of the seven, and 
then stripped the two that remained of any intrinsic value or force. 
The whole " work " was done by the recipient. He arrived with 
that trust in God to which the word " faith " was attached, and on 
the grounds of that faith, good was accomplished within him. At 
least this much credit has to be given to the Reformers they be- 
lieved in certain fundamental things, such as sin and grace, forgive- 
ness and salvation, to which modern creeds pay practically no atten- 
tion at all. None the less, the Reformation was the immediate 
ancestor of that scepticism which to-day pervades almost everything 
religious, and has succeeded in making modern non-Catholics forget, 
above all, anything connected with the dogma of the Supernatural 
as such. But, as we saw, the Sacraments have no meaning save on 
the Supernatural plane. 

Catholics may well be grateful for the institution by our Lord 
Jesus Christ of those Seven Sacraments that we have been speaking 
of. We have had once or twice to look aside from the Catholic 
doctrine to those alien systems, or that alien chaos, that confronts all 
that we mean by the Sacramental System. We can afford to smile 
when non-Catholics talk of " meaningless " or " magical " rites, 
and we need not retort with gibes of " subjectivism," for not only 
are all gibes, directed even to the most mistaken of honest and sincere 
men, out of place, but they have practically come to be off the point, 
for, save among Catholics, there is to-day very little theory about 
Sacraments at all, and less and less use of them or of their substitutes. 


As always, this doctrine carries us back to the love of God for 
man. Why, unless God had loved us, should he have willed so 
much as to offer us the gift of Supernatural Life, and why, save again 
because he loved us, should he have willed to restore to us that 
life, once our race had lost it through sin ? Well, he did decree to 
restore us to the place from which the race, in Adam, had fallen ; 
and that restoration was not to be done as it were in some technical 
way, as though, for example, God taught us just how to make ^ a 
" good act of contrition/' and thereupon pronounced us once again 
his sons. The redemption and restoration of mankind was to be 
done through God's eternal Son taking our human flesh so as to 
knit up our nature with his divine nature into one person, Jesus 
Christ. This torrential invasion of God's love makes any ^ sacra- 
mental doctrine we may proceed to tell of quite " natural/' since 
never can the Sacraments catch up, in their tender intimacy, with 
that tremendous and total approach of God in human guise. Or is 
there a way in which one of them, at least, so catches up ? I suggest 
it in a moment. At any rate, God has entered our world as man, 
and in a sense Christ himself can be called the Supreme Sacrament, 
since his humanity veils, yet is the vehicle of, his invisible divinity, 
and through that Humanity the eternal God energises and does his 
work in our souls if we but make use of him. 

But, after all, Jesus Christ our Lord no longer treads this earth. 
He has left it, and " sits ever at the right hand of the Father." Yet 
would he not leave us desolate and without himself. In that visible- 
invisible Society which the Church is, he continues himself, and 
in the Church lives and teaches and rules and gives life to the 


But that Church, like her Head, has never preached some chill 
doctrine of the salvation of our souls such that we must think that 
our bodies are of no interest or value. We are and ever hereafter 
shall be true men, body-soul, however much our bodies shall be 
perfected and exalted by glory. And in many ways, though in seven 
chief and special ways, Grace, that is the germ of glory, reaches us, 
and all of these ways most mercifully take into account our bodies 
as well as our souls. Simple elements are taken up by Christ, and 
are made the visible part in those transactions through which we 
appropriate salvation. For ever, henceforward, Water must be re- 
garded by us with awe and affection, since Christ has used it in his 
Sacrament of Baptism. Drowning and barren water has become 
that which washes from us all spiritual stain, and that from which 
we ascend, new-born sons, to God. He takes that ancient gift of 
Oil, in which our forefathers saw so many hints of the richness and 
grace of God, and anoints and consecrates us by its means anoints 
our youth, that it may be strong for God and joyous in God ; anoints 
the men who are to be priests, the royal priests, of God Most High ; 
anoints too those sick who stand in such special need of consolation 


and spiritual power. Is there not a quite special tenderness in the 
fact that the Sacrament of Marriage takes not, this time, some non- 
human element, but the human action and will of two human beings 
who should love one another and who desire to join in building 
up that true vital cell of the full human life, which a home is ? The 
contract that these two freely enter upon is the very stuff of God's 
Sacrament ; and, again a special delicacy of his goodness, it is these 
same two, the man and the w r oman, who are ministers of this Sacra- 
ment, and give to one another the Grace of Christ. For my part, 
I cannot but see once more in the Sacrament of Penance a great 
revelation of the gentle " homeliness " of our Lord, since here too 
he refrains from introducing some alien material on to which the 
divine forgiveness may descend and in which it may operate. Here 
too the material element in the Sacrament consists in human acts 
in the acts of that very penitent who might be thinking that he was 
not so much as worthy to enter into the house of his Father, nor lift 
up his head in the presence of his offended God. No. God calls 
him to his side, bids him confess his sins, and then uses the acts^ of 
contrition and resolution, as of confession, nay, uses the very sins 
themselves that the penitent has spread forth before him as that 
wherein his healing Grace may work. 

But it is the Eucharist beyond which the inventiveness of God's 
humble love could not proceed. God takes, once more, the simple 
elements of Bread and Wine, and, this time, not only becomes as 
it were their partner in the sacramental work, but, leaving only their 
appearance for the sake of our poor senses, transubstantiates their 
reality into his most real Self, so that the Gift here is the Giver ; 
the means have become the End. We are given, not a memory, 
not a hope ; not a metaphor, not an instrument, but himself. 

We shall then be wise to practise living as it were upon this 
Sacramental principle. We shall seek ever to look below the surface. 
We shall see in all nature traces of God's presence and of his power. 
We shall reverently anticipate, as it were, the Church, by creating 
" sacramentals " for our own use, by seeking to see God in all things, 
and above all in our fellow-men, by worshipping him there for 
there indeed and of necessity he is and by drawing thence his re- 
ward, which is grace, love, and truth. But this is matter for our 
private devotion ; and though we are wise to keep that devotion in 
the framework, so to say, of the Church's sanctioned ideas, yet we 
shall be wisest of all to recall continually those great Sacraments 
that we have received and can receive no more Baptism, that 
opened every grace to us : Confirmation, that established in us 
that Christian Character owing to which we can call on the Indwelling 
Spirit, as by right, to succour us : and above all we shall be wise and 
acting rightly if we make the maximum of use of the two great 
Sacraments of Penance and of the Eucharist, wherefrom we draw 
sure and certain healing if we are sick, even if we are spiritually sick 


to death, and increase of soul's health and strength if, as God grant,, 
there be life in our souls and sin be absent from them. 

Finally, we shall pray for those who know nothing of these Sacra- 
ments : we shall pray that all men and women now alive may make 
those acts of faith and contrition upon which all the rest of the 
spiritual life is built (for they involve, too, charity), and we shall ask 
that as many as possible may pass from the realm of desire and what 
is but implicit, to the full, conscious, deliberate and most joyous 
appropriation of all the riches of our God. 




OUR Blessed Saviour, after his Resurrection from the dead and just Baptism 
before his Ascension into Heaven, told his Apostles to teach ^-^^ament 
nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, acrament 
and of the Holy Ghost. 1 To what was he referring when he told 
them to baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the 
Holy Ghost ? He was referring to a sacramental rite which he him- 
self had instituted. Let us briefly demonstrate this simple fact. 

That he was referring to a rite which he had instituted is per- 
fectly clear to anyone who reads the New Testament, wherein the 
baptism of Christ is often contrasted with the baptism of John ; 
the basis of this contrast being that the baptism of John, which is 
inferior to that of Christ, is to give place to the baptism of Christ ; 
for John came baptising in preparation for the Messias, in order that 
he might be made manifest in Israel. 2 It was this baptism, then, 
his own baptism, that he ordered his Apostles to administer. Clearly, 
therefore, he was referring to a rite which he himself had instituted. 
But was this rite a sacramental rite ? 

That it was a sacramental rite is equally clear from many passages 
in the New Testament. The reader will already know what a 
Sacrament is from the essay on the Sacramental System in this 
volume : he will know that it is a rite which not only signifies some 
specific Grace, but which of its intrinsic power produces that Grace 
in the soul of the person to whom it is administered. Our Blessed 
Lord's own words enable us to see in what his baptismal rite is to 
consist, when he tells Nicodemus that unless a man be born again 
of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the Kingdom 
of God ; 3 and when he tells his Apostles to baptise in the name of 
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. We have then a 
rite of washing with water which is done in the name of the three 
Divine Persons, a rite which signifies something, namely, a spiritual 
cleansing. Nor less evident is it that this rite not only signifies a 
cleansing Grace, but that it also produces in the soul the Grace 
which it thus signifies. In the first place, it is a rite that regenerates 
man ; for Christ tells us that by it a man is born again. Secondly, 
this regeneration which begins a new life in the soul ensures the 
salvation of the baptised person ; for St Paul tells us that Christ 
saved us by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy 

1 Matt, xxviii 19. 2 John 131. 3 John iii 5. 



Spirit. 1 Again, baptism not only produces this new life in us, but 
it kills sin in us, as St Paul tells us that all who have been baptised 
are dead to sin. 2 Further, this baptism creates in us a new relation 
towards God, making us the children of God, 3 and it incorporates 
us in the Church of Christ. 4 These points we shall go into in more 
detail when we are speaking of that effect in the soul which we call 
the sacramental Grace of baptism ; our one object just now being 
to show the reader that the Sacred Scriptures clearly, and indeed 
abundantly, demonstrate to us that the baptismal rite instituted by 
Christ is a sacramental rite ; that is to say, it is an exterior sign 
that produces in the soul the Grace it signifies, a Grace that cleanses 
the soul of sin and begins its supernatural life. 

What is thus shown to us in the Sacred Scriptures is repeated 
in the most unmistakable way in the tradition of the Church from 
the earliest times. We may dispense with all quotations from 
tradition on a matter so obviously true and so generally admitted. 
From this point of view the position of the Sacrament of Baptism 
is somewhat unique ; for there is no Sacrament the existence of 
which is so generally admitted outside the Church. Its existence 
is recognised by all the Christian sects, and the errors into which 
they fall concerning this Sacrament arise, as a rule, indirectly. 
Thus, they may fall into error concerning Grace, which undermines 
the whole sacramental system ; or they may fall into error on the 
Divinity of Christ, which undermines the whole body of revealed 
truth. In such partial and total collapses baptism is inevitably in- 
volved in the general ruin, but it is rarely singled out in an isolated 
way as the object of direct attack. Let us, therefore., pass on to a 
full explanation in the next section of what baptism is ; reserving 
for subsequent sections the question of its necessity, its minister, 
and its subject. 


AT the outset, let us observe that when we speak of a Sacrament 
we mean one or more than one of three things that are perfectly 
distinct. First of all, we may mean just the exterior rite or " Out- 
ward Sign," as it is called, made up of actions and words which 
constitute the matter and form of the Sacrament, and known to 
theologians as the *' Sacrament only." Secondly, we may mean 
the Grace produced in the soul by the Sacrament, which is known 
to theologians as " The Thing." Thirdly, we may mean another 
effect produced by the Sacrament which is quite distinct from. Grace, 
and means a title or disposition in the soul to receive sacramental 
Grace ; which title or disposition is necessarily and infallibly con- 
nected with the outward sign. The reader will readily understand 

1 Titus iii 5. 2 Rom. vi n. 

3 Gal. iii 26-27. 4 i Cor. xii 13 ; Acts ii 41. 


what this title or disposition means from the following illustration : 
Let us suppose that a man is married in the state of mortal sin. 
It is clear that he cannot receive any sacramental Grace from matri- 
mony while he is in that state, and that not only does he receive no 
Grace by being so married, but he even adds the sin of sacrilege to 
his already burdened soul. None the less, he has been validly 
married and has received the Sacrament just as truly, as far as validity 
is concerned, as if he had been in the state of Grace. Later on he 
repents and has his sins forgiven. Now, at the moment in which 
his sins are forgiven, the Sacrament of Matrimony immediately 
produces its effect of Grace in his soul. How is this to be explained ? 
Simply in this way, that the valid reception of the Sacrament of 
Matrimony entitled him to receive sacramental Grace, but this 
effect was held up owing to the obstacle of sin in his soul. The 
moment that obstacle is removed he receives the Grace. 1 Therefore, 
in every Sacrament there is an effect upon the soul distinct from 
Grace, which, as we have said, is a title or disposition to receive 
Grace ; and which is known to theologians as c< The Thing and the 
Sacrament.'* In putting a full explanation of baptism before the 
reader in this section we shall adopt this threefold division, and the 
reader will find this method of great assistance in obtaining an 
orderly and simple idea of all that is meant by baptism. Not to 
harass him with theological terms which may be unfamiliar, we shall 
call these three things respectively : 

1. The Sacrament. 

2. The Grace. 

3. The Character. 


In this section we are speaking of the rite or the outward sign. 
What does it consist in ? It is an exterior washing of the body 
under a prescribed form of words. The remote matter of the Sacra- 
ment is water, and the proximate matter is a washing of the body 
with water. The form is this : "I baptise thee in the name of the 
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost " ; or, as with the 
Greeks, " The servant of God is baptised in the name of the Father, 
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Let us now explain this 
matter and form in greater detail. 

THE MATTER. The remote matter of this Sacrament is water. The matter 
That this is so is shown by Christ's words to Nicodemus, when he 
says that water is necessary for producing the regeneration that is 
to give a new life to man. There can be no doubt but Christ is 
speaking literally here and not in any symbolic way. For we find 
that after the Ascension of Christ water is always used in the adminis- 
tration of this Sacrament. Thus, the deacon Philip baptises the 

x See pp. 755, 762 and n. 


eunuch of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians, as soon as they come 
to some water. 1 Moreover, the universal teaching and practice of 
the Church leave us in no doubt on this point. The author of the 
work The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, written about the year 100, 
tells us that candidates for baptism are either to be plunged in 
flowing water, or, failing that, in the still water of a pool, etc. If one 
has not enough water for this purpose, then the water may be poured 
three times on the head, From the writings of the Fathers of the 
Church it is clear that any attempt to abolish the use of water or 
to introduce customs at variance with Apostolic tradition were 
vigorously put down by the Church as being destructive of the very 
Sacrament itself. For instance, we find the Fathers, from the 
second century, inveighing against heretics like the Gnostics and 
Quintillians, who wish to dispense with the use of water, owing 
to their tenet that water was a source of evil, as it was some- 
thing material ; all matter, according to them, being something 
evil in itself. Other quaint practices, such as the use of sand, 
or a mixture of oil and water, or fire, instead of water, were at 
once condemned. 2 

The Blessing Though water of any kind was used for the administration of 
of water t ^ s Sacrament, the custom of blessing the water is of very great 
antiquity, and soon became universal in the Church. And very 
naturally so, because the water which is used in baptism is raised 
by the work of the Holy Spirit to the dignity of an instrumental 
cause of our regeneration, and as such is fittingly hallowed by a 
blessing. We find this custom frequently referred to by the Fathers, 
and we have to-day a prayer of very great antiquity in our Liturgy 
deriving from the writings of the Fathers, and of St Ambrose in 
particular which is used for the blessing of the water in the baptismal 
font on Holy Saturday and the Vigil of Pentecost. As it is very 
long, we shall quote but a portion of this beautiful prayer : 

" May this holy and innocent creature (the water) be free from 
all the assaults of the enemy, and purified by the destruction of all 
his malice. May it be a living fountain, a regenerating water, a 
purifying stream : that all those who are to be washed in this saving 
bath may obtain, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, the grace of 
a perfect purification. Therefore I bless thee, O creature of water, 
by the living God, by the true God, by the holy God, by that God 
who in the beginning separated thee by his word from the dry land, 
whose Spirit moved over thee. Who made thee flow from the 
fountain of Paradise and commanded thee to water the whole earth 

1 Acts viii 38. 

2 We might remind the reader at this point that when he finds, as he will 
frequently find throughout this essay, quotations from the Fathers, these 
quotations are not given as if the isolated testimony of a single Father here 
and there were sufficient evidence for an argument from tradition, but simply 
as examples of the customary belief and practice of the Church, which is the 
real argument from tradition. 


with thy four rivers. Who, changing thy bitterness in the desert 
into sweetness, made thee fit to drink, and produced thee out of a 
rock to quench the thirst of the people. I bless thee also by our 
Lord Jesus Christ his only Son : who in Cana of Galilee changed 
thee into wine by a wonderful miracle of his power. Who walked 
upon thee dry-foot, and was baptised in thee by John in the Jordan. 
Who made thee flow out of his side together with his blood, and 
commanded his disciples that such as believed should be baptised 
in thee, saying : Go, teach all nations, baptising them in the name of 
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Do thou, 
Almighty God, mercifully assist us that observe this command : 
do thou graciously inspire us. Do thou with thy mouth bless these 
clear waters : that besides their natural virtue of cleansing the body, 
they may also be effectual for the purifying of the soul." 

The proximate matter is the washing of the body with water. 
In what way is this washing to be done ? It may be in any of these 
three ways : immersion of the body in water ; infusion or pouring 
of water on the body ; and sprinkling of the body with water. 
Something must now be said of each of these. 

Immersion. Many people, including some Catholics, believe Immersion 
that baptism by submerging the body in water was the only method 
followed in the early Church. Such a belief is quite groundless. 
One might say, indeed, that such immersion was common ; but it 
was probably just as customary for the candidate to stand in water, 
perhaps up to the thighs, and then have water poured over him ; 
and infusion and sprinkling were known and used, most probably 
from the very beginning. What we have already quoted from 
The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles shows that pouring and sprinkling 
were recognised as valid proximate matter, and many other quotations 
to the same effect might be given. It is very interesting to note that 
some of the baptisms recorded in the New Testament were given in 
circumstances in which baptism by submersion of the body would 
have been awkward and therefore improbable ; as when St Paul 
baptised his gaoler and the gaoler's family, 1 or when three thousand, 
converted by St Peter's sermon, presented themselves all together 
for baptism. Again, the fact that St Paul stood up in the house of 
Ananias in order to be baptised 2 has sometimes been taken to mean 
that he was not baptised by a submersion of his body in water. 

Where baptism was given by submerging the body, this was 
usually done three times. The custom of submerging the body 
once only appears to have arisen in Spain. It was looked upon 
askance for some time, not as if it interfered with the validity of the 
baptism, but simply as being against the ordinary use. Pope St 
Gregory the Great informed Leander, Bishop of Seville, who had 
consulted him on this point, that such a method was valid, but that 
in Rome it was customary to give three immersions, to signify the 

1 Acts xvi 33. 2 Acts ix 18. 


three days' burial of Christ ; I the whole Liturgy being based on the 
text of St Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, 2 where he shows that 
our baptism represents the death of Christ. The second method of 
immersion, where as we have said the candidate stood in water 
up to the thighs and then had the water poured over him, js repre- 
sented to us in the very interesting and valuable pictures discovered 
in the Catacombs, which prove that this method of baptising is very 
ancient and suggests that it was very common. 

Infusion Infusion. Baptism administered by pouring water on the head 

while the candidate did not himself stand in the water was recognised 
as valid at all times, but was not much used, as far as we can gather, 
except in cases of necessity, such as the scarcity of water or the sick- 
ness of the candidate. The same may be said of sprinkling. In- 
fusion, however, grew in popularity, and eventually, as everybody 
knows, supplanted all other methods in the Roman rite. Baptism 
of the sick was known as " clinical " baptism. It was probably 
very common indeed during the fourth century, at least from the 
peace of Constantine, owing to the deplorable custom that arose of 
postponing one's baptism until the last moment. This custom was 
largely due to a desire to have all guilt and punishment remitted 
at the opportune time of one's last illness ; but it was also due to 
the seriousness with which baptism was regarded, and the clear 
realisation of the high standard of life that would be demanded of 
any baptised person. m . 

It is important to note, in connection with baptism by infusion 
or sprinkling, that the proximate matter must always be a washing 
of the body. The body may be said to be washed when there is an 
infusion or sprinkling of water on some principal part of it, such 
as the head or the breast. Could one say that the body was washed 
if the water was poured or sprinkled on the hand only or the foot ? 
One could not answer definitely. Certainly, if baptism were so 
administered owing to necessity, it would be obligatory to baptise 
conditionally later on, if the opportunity of doing so presented itself. 3 
The form THE FORM The form of the Sacrament of Baptism is this : 

" I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of 
the Holy Ghost." Or, as among the Greeks, " The servant of God 
is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the 
Holy Ghost." Are all these words in the form necessary for the 
validity of the Sacrament ? 

Beyond doubt, the words expressing the act of washing are 
necessary. Thus, the act of washing would not be expressed if the 
words " I baptise thee " or " The servant of God is baptised " were 
omitted. Again, the express and distinct invocation of each person 
of the Blessed Trinity is necessary. The command of Christ that 
men should be baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, 

^.L., tome Ixxvii, col. 498. 

2 Chap. vi. 3 See p. 790. 


and of the Holy Ghost, puts this beyond all question. When St 
Paul met some of the disciples of Christ at Ephesus, who had not 
heard of the Holy Ghost, he immediately asked them : What baptism 
have you received ? much as to say : If you have received the 
baptism instituted by Christ you could not have failed to have heard 
of the Holy Ghost, as each Person of the Blessed Trinity is invoked. 
Occasionally one sees certain texts quoted from the Acts of the 
Apostles (ii 38, vii 12) in which baptism in the name of Jesus Christ 
is mentioned, as if these texts showed that baptism could be given in 
the name of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity only, and not 
in the name of all three. But this contention is really frivolous. 
For it is clear that these texts have absolutely no reference to the 
form of baptism, but simply to the Sacrament which Christ instituted, 
and which he commanded his Apostles to administer (as he com- 
mands us to do all things) in his name. It is the baptism of Christ 
that must be distinguished from the baptism of John, a distinction 
all the more necessary in the beginning, when many of those baptised 
by John were still alive. Thus to refer again to a text alluded to 
above in chap, xix of the Acts we read : " Paul . . . came to 
Ephesus and found certain disciples. And he said to them : Have 
you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed ? But they said to 
him : We have not so much as heard if there be a Holy Ghost. 
And he said : In what then were you baptised ? Who said : In 
John's baptism. Then Paul said : John baptised the people with 
the baptism of penance, saying that they should believe in him who 
was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. Having heard these 
things, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." 

The evidence supplied by ancient liturgical books gives us a 
striking proof of the universal agreement in the Church as to the form 
of baptism. Were our Church not a Divine institution, it would 
certainly appear remarkable that the same form should be given 
everywhere ; especially when we consider that we have ancient 
liturgical evidence on this point in the following rites : Roman, 
African, Ambrosian, Gallican, Mozarabic, Celtic, Alexandrian, 
Syrian, and Byzantine. Even among heretics this form of baptism 
was, as a rule, rigorously adhered to ; so that St Augustine tells us 
that it is easier to find heretics who do not baptise at all than to 
find heretics who, in baptising, do not invoke the three Persons of 
the Blessed Trinity. 1 


We have now to speak of that effect of baptism which we call 
Grace. This grace, as the sacramental rite shows, is a cleansing. 
" Christ," says St Paul, " cleanses his Church by the laver of water." 2 
This cleansing grace is a full renovation by which a man is freed 

1 De bapt. cont. Donat., vi 25, 47. 2 Eph. v 26. 


from all stain of sin and born to a new spiritual life. We must now 
explain the meaning of the terms we use, and make clear everything- 
that they imply. B 

By the stain of sin we mean here both the guilt of sin and all the 
punishment, whether temporal or eternal, that is due to it. By 
beiixg born to a new life we mean the reception of habitual Grace, 
the infused theological and moral virtues, and all the gifts of the 
Holy Ghost. 

St Paul, in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, uses 
these words : < Know you not that all we who are baptised in Christ 
Jesus are baptised in his death ? For we are buried together with 
him by baptism unto death : that as Christ is risen from the dead 
by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. 
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body 
of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer. 
For he that is dead is justified from sin. Now, if we be dead with 
Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ. 
Knowing that Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more. 
For in that he died to sin, he died once ; but in that he liveth, he 
liveth unto God. So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, 
but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

From these magnificent words of the Apostle it is clear that 
baptism reproduces in us, as it were, the death and resurrection of 
Christ, We share through baptism in the death of Christ, because 
our " old man " is crucified with him ; that is to say, baptism 
destroys in us all the sin that defiled our souls. In the same Epistle * 
St Paul says that there is nothing to condemn in those that are in 
Christ Jesus. That is to say for such is the interpretation of these 
words given by the Fathers of the Church, the theologians, and the 
Council of Trent baptism exonerates us completely before God, 
since there is neither guilt nor debt cf punishment in the souls of 
the baptised. More explicitly, whether it be a question of original 
sin or actual sin, baptism not only delivers us from eternal loss, but 
also remits all temporal punishment due to actual sin, and entitles 
us to eternal life. It does not, of course, mean that we cannot sin 
again, for our salvation will depend on our fidelity to the obligations 
we have undertaken in baptism ; but it means that as regards all sin 
that has gone before, Christ has saved us by this laver of regeneration 
and renovation of the Holy Spirit. 

Taking the words of Christ, in which he speaks of our being 
born again through baptism, in conjunction with the words of 
St Paul, we find that baptism has not merely the effect of destroying 
sin, in us, so that sin is as dead in us as the body of Christ was dead 
upon the Cross and in what more forcible way could the power 
of baptism over sin be described ? but it also causes a new birth 
in the spiritual order, which begins a new life, corresponding to the 

1 viii i. 


Resurrection of Christ. Everyone, then, who Is baptised, at no 
matter what period of his life, is beginning this new life, is com- 
pletely innocent, and a newly-begotten Infant, without guile, In the 
sight of God. The life of sin is at an end, and the life of innocence 
has begun . This life, as the reader can learn from the essays on 
grace in this volume, Involves an Infusion of habitual grace, a title to 
actual graces in the future, an infusion of the theological and moral 
virtues, ^and all the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Again, this life begun 
by baptism establishes us in new relations towards God, as St Paul 
tells us when he says, in his Epistle to the Galatians : " You are all 
children of God by faith In Jesus Christ. For as many of you as have 
been baptised In Christ have put on Christ." * One must also bear 
In mind that every single passage in the New Testament dealing with 
the effects of justification might be quoted, at least Indirectly, as 
descriptions of the effect of baptism, because that Sacrament is the 
source and origin of it all. 

That very word Justification is in itself a complete summary of 
the effect of baptism. By it the soul is adjusted towards God in a 
supernaturally perfect and complete relation of innocence and 
favour. Sin is gone and the soul can rejoice, in peace and serenity, 
in that unhindered intimacy with God to which grace has raised it. 


The effect of sacramental grace can be hindered by a lack of due 
dispositions in the recipient ; but there is another effect, distinct 
from grace, which as we have mentioned before is necessarily 
and infallibly produced in the soul, as it cannot be separated from the 
outward sign or rite. This effect Is the title to receive grace. Now 
in three of the Sacraments this effect is known as a Character, and 
Baptism is one of these three ; the others being Confirmation and 
Holy Order. The reason why this effect is called a Character in 
the case of these three Sacraments is that, in addition to the title to 
grace which they confer, they assign one, in the divinely ordered 
parts or hierarchy of the Church, to a particular state, which has 
definite duties and rights attached to it. To what does baptism 
assign one ? To the state of membership in the Church, member- 
ship of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. Whoever 
is baptised, then, has all the duties and rights of a member. By 
what process does baptism make one a member ? By causing one 
to be born in the Church, and into the Ckurch ; for this is the mean- 
ing of Christ's words to Nicodemus. Now, it Is clear that, in virtue 
of this Character, the Sacrament of Baptism cannot be repeated, 
and that anyone who is baptised must always and unalterably belong 
to the Church. If a man had been born in England nothing could 
ever alter that fact ; and so it is though we need not push the 

1 ill 26, 27. 


example to the point of lameness with anyone who, being baptised, 
is born in the Church. As a member one is obliged by all the duties 
of Christian life, and entitled to all the graces (such as the reception 
of other Sacraments) that flow from the inexhaustible treasury of the 


Nor let the reader suppose that all this applies only to those who 
have received baptism at the hands of Catholics. It applies to 
anyone who has received the Sacrament of Baptism, whether he 
received it at the hands of Catholic or heretic, man or woman, 
believer or infidel. For, as we have said more than once and it is 
no harm to repeat it several times the Character of baptism is 
necessarily and infallibly received whenever baptism is validly ad- 
ministered, as this effect cannot be separated from the outward sign. 
It may well be, as with large heretical bodies, that the Church cannot 
enforce her rights over all that belong to her, and it may equally 
well be that, prudently weighing what is ultimately best for man- 
kind, she may not wish to enforce these rights. Yet she always 
has those rights ; for they are, and must be, co-extensive with that 
portion of the human race that is marked with the Character of 


That baptism has this effect of making one a member of the Churcn 
is clearly put before us in the Sacred Scriptures. We have already 
referred to Christ's words that entry into the Kingdom is by baptism. 
Again, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles that those who received 
the word of Peter were baptised, and there were added in that day 
about three thousand souls ; that is to say, there were added to the 
Church by means of baptism. But probably this truth could not 
be put in more forcible terms than those St Paul uses, when he says 
that in one spirit we were all baptised into one body. 1 We need 
not dwell on the tradition of the Church concerning this fact, beyond 
saying that there is no tradition more clearly or explicitly before us, 
and that the entire Liturgy of Christian Initiation is based upon it. 


THERE are two ways in which a Sacrament may be necessary for 
salvation. It may be necessary as a means, or it may be necessary 
as the fulfilment of a precept only. Now, in saying that baptism is 
necessary for salvation, we mean that it is necessary as a means of 
salvation ; so that, without it, it is impossible to go to Heaven. 
That being so, it is obvious that baptism is also necessary as the 
fulfilment of a precept, as we are bound to do whatever is indis- 
pensably necessary for our salvation. 

It is a fact that is easily demonstrated. Habitual grace, which is 
the root principle of eternal life, is an absolutely indispensable 
means of salvation. Now, every soul is originally deprived of this 

1 i Cor. xii 13. 


habitual Grace through the sin of our first parents ; and, in the case 
of adults, it may be doubly deprived owing to the presence of grave 
actual sin. It is, then, indispensably necessary for salvation that the 
soul be spiritually regenerated or born again to this life of which it is 
deprived ; and it is baptism, as we have seen in the previous section, 
that effects this regeneration. 

At this point the reader should avoid any confusion of mind that 
may arise from his knowledge of the existence of the Sacrament 
of Penance. It must be perfectly clearly understood that if, after 
baptism, one has had the misfortune to fall into grave sin, it is the 
baptismal Character and nothing else that entitles one to avail of 
God's mercy in the Gacrament of Penance. For this Character 
entitles us to the advantages that arise from being a member of the 
Church. Once we have received the baptismal Character, Satan 
can never again have the same power over us, and can only make us 
soil our feet, as it were. If Christ had not washed us we should have 
no part with him ; but since he has washed us we need but to wash 
our feet, and be clean wholly again. In saying this we do not wish 
to detract in any way from the fact that mortal sin after baptism is 
both a destruction of our new life and the gravest infidelity to our 
baptismal obligations. Indeed, we find that in the early Church, 
ever since the neophytes had heard the ringing words of Paul, it was 
regarded as a catastrophe that anyone should sin after baptism ; 
so much so that many of these early converts never went to Con- 
fession, for there was no need of it, and it is doubtful if many of them 
even reflected on the fact that they might make use of the admitted 
power of the Church to forgive post-baptismal sin. 1 Our point is 
simply to stress the fact that it is fundamentally and originally to the 
great baptismal Character that we owe all spiritual graces and 

Christ himself tells us that we must receive this spiritual re- 
generation through baptism, and that without it we cannot save 
our souls. He says to Nicodemus : " Unless a man be born again 
he cannot see the Kingdom of God." 2 When Nicodemus asks 
him : " How can a man be born when he is old ? Can he enter 
a second time into his mother's womb and be born again ? " 
Christ explains his meaning, without in any way diminishing its 
force, declaring solemnly : " Unless a man be born again of water 
and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God/' 

Naturally, what Christ had said so clearly the Fathers of the Heresies on 
Church repeated, as occasion arose. Such occasions did arise this point 
through various heresies, which the Fathers were obliged to combat. 
There were the Cainites and the Quintillians in the second century, 
who held that faith alone was sufficient for salvation and that baptism 
was not necessary ; there were the Manicheans, from the third 
century onwards, who regarded water as something evil in nature, 

1 Cf. Essay xxvii, The Sacrament of Penance, pp. 965, 967. 2 John iii 3 sq. 


and as such quite unsuited as a means of salvation ; there were the 
Massalians, who regarded it as useless ; and there were the Pelagians, 
against whom. St Augustine wrote, who regarded it as unnecessary. 
These latter, not recognising the existence of original sin, inevitably 
regarded baptism as of no real necessity, but admitted its utility for 
the remission of actual sin and for facilitating one's access to the 
Kingdom of Heaven. 

The Fathers These and all other errors on the necessity of baptism were 
resolutely condemned as soon as ever they showed themselves, as 
the Church always regarded baptism as of absolute necessity. In 
the controversy between St Cyprian and Pope St Stephen on the 
question of rebaptising heretics (of which more in a later section), 1 
it is taken for granted by all parties that baptism itself is absolutely 
necessary for salvation. Again, St Irenaeus says that Christ came to 
save all through himself that is, all who are born to God again by 
him, infants and little ones, children, youths and adults. 2 Tertullian 
points out to us that while the words " Teach all nations, baptising 
them/' etc., show us that baptism is necessary as a precept, the words 
" Unless a man be born again/' etc., show its necessity as a means. 3 
St Ambrose tells us that without baptism faith will not secure salva- 
tion, as the remission of sin and special graces come only through 
baptism. 4 St Augustine regards it as a principle that admits of no 
dispute that no unbaptised person is without sin, and baptism there- 
fore is necessary for his salvation. 5 This is true, he tells us, even 
of persons who practise virtues and walk in the way of a relative 
perfection. Even if one has given his possessions to the poor, is 
better instructed in the truths of faith than the majority of baptised 
persons, and is careful not to be vain on that account and not to 
despise baptism, but is not yet baptised then all his sins are still 
upon him, and unless he comes to saving baptism, where sins are 
loosed, in spite of all his excellence, he cannot enter into the Kingdom 
of Heaven. 6 Moreover, in his controversy with the Pelagians, St 
Augustine lets us see that he regards the baptism of infants as neces- 
sary, owing to the? stain of original sin upon their souls. 

No substitute At this point the reader may have a difficulty. It can be put in 
for Baptism ^^ way . j & j t not tme ^^ ]y[ ar y Magdalen was a saint from that 

moment in which Christ forgave her because she loved much ? 
And yet we are not aware that she was then baptised. Is it not true 
that the Holy Innocents did not receive the Sacrament of Baptism ? 
Also, that some of the canonised saints were only catechumens, and 
so forth ? Now, it will promote tidiness and clarity of thought if 
we deal with this difficulty by proposing to ourselves these two 
questions, and by answering them : First, Has Christ instituted any 
other positive means of regeneration besides baptism, either by way 

1 See pp. 785 ff. 2 Cont. haer.> i 22, n. 4. 

3 De bapt., 12. 4 De myst. y iv 20. 

5 Cont. litt. PetiL, 1. ii, n. 232. 6 In loa., tr. iv. 13. 


of addition to or exception from the law of baptism ? Secondly, 
Is it not possible that, from the very nature of things which precedes 
all positive law and is allowed for in positive law, it might happen 
that a person could receive justification without the actual reception 
of the Sacrament of Baptism ? 

We answer the first of these questions in the negative. We 
cannot admit any other means of salvation positively instituted by 
Christ, for the very good reason that his positive law has provided 
one means and only one. If, therefore, any theories are advanced 
on the question of salvation which involve the recognition of some 
means of salvation positively instituted by Christ, other than bap- 
tism, such theories must immediately be rejected as at least erroneous. 
Attempts of this kind have been made from time to time. The best 
known is that of the theologian Cajetan, who expressed the opinion 
that in the case of infants dying in the mother's womb, the prayers 
of the parents could secure the justification and salvation of the 
children. He thought that a blessing of the child in the womb, 
given in the name of the Blessed Trinity, would secure this. This 
opinion was regarded with great disapproval by the theologians of 
the Council of Trent, and though it was not actually condemned, 
Pope Pius V ordered that it should be expunged from the works of 
Cajetan. A somewhat similar view was held by Gerson, Durand, 
Bianchi, and others. Even St Bonaventure seems to have nodded ; 
for he says that an infant would be deprived of grace if unbaptised, 
unless God made it the object of some special privilege. 1 

The fundamental error of all such views is that they introduce, 
without warrant of any kind from Revelation, a second means of 
salvation positively instituted by Christ. They demand the recogni- 
tion of what we might call a pseu do- Sacrament. If, for instance, 
such a rite as blessing an infant in its mother's womb is sufficient 
for its justification, then we must admit a pseudo-Sacrament posi- 
tively instituted by Christ, by way of addition to or exception from 
the law of baptism which he has made. To admit this is gratuitous, 
as it is not mentioned by Christ, and it is erroneous, as it is plainly 
against the universality of the words of Christ. 

We must conclude then that infants dying in their mother's 
womb do not enjoy the Beatific Vision in Heaven. At the same time 
they do not suffer from what is called the pain of sense. According 
to St Thomas, they enjoy a real happiness which consists, not indeed 
in that vision of God which grace alone makes possible, but in the 
natural love and knowledge of God. 2 

We answer our second question in the affirmative. It can happen Two 
that a person receives justification without actually receiving faz equivalents 
Sacrament of Baptism. And it can happen in one of two ways : 
either, i, by Martyrdom, or 2, by Charity. Let us take them 

1 In IV Sent., I iv, dist. iv. 

2 In IV Sent., I ii, dist. xxx, Q. II, art. 2, ad 5. 


separately, giving exact explanations of the words we use, and 
showing that each of them amounts to baptism. 

Martyrdom By martyrdom we mean suffering death for the cause of Christ. 
We must first make this important proviso : to have the merit of 
martyrdom it is not necessary that one should be an adult, knowing 
the teaching of Christ and acting with deliberation. It is sufficient 
that one should simply suffer death for the cause of Christ. Now, 
the cause of Christ may mean something concerning the Person of 
Christ ; as when the Holy Innocents were put to death by Herod, 
in the hope that Christ might be among the victims of the general 
slaughter. Or it may mean something concerning the religion and 
faith of Christ, as with the majority of the martyrs. Or, finally, it 
may mean something concerning a virtue which is specially enjoined 
by the law of Christ ; as when St John the Baptist was beheaded 
for defending the virtue of chastity. 

Having made clear what we mean by the cause of Christ, we may 
say that two conditions are necessary for true martyrdom. The first 
is that the person guilty of inflicting death persecutes Christ in one 
or other of the three ways mentioned above. The motive for which 
the persecutor acts is not of the slightest importance as far as martyr- 
dom is concerned, provided that it is because of their Christianity that 
the victims are made to suffer. Thus we are told by Tacitus that 
Nero's first persecution of the Christians was simply in order to 
make the public believe that the Christians, and not he, were guilty 
of the burning of Rome. 1 His motive was the purely personal one 
of averting suspicion from himself, yet his victims were none the 
less martyrs, as it was because they were Christians that they were 
made to suffer. 

The second condition is that the person who is killed dies by 
allowing himself to be killed. If one were killed simply through 
being overcome by superior force, in spite of the stoutest resistance 
that one was capable of, it could scarcely be called martyrdom, as 
it would not conform to the type of Christ, who as a lamb was led 
to the slaughter. 2 The Church has never shown any disposition 
to canonise all those who lost their lives in the Crusades. Crusaders 
may be said to have suffered for the cause of Christ, but the element 
of being meekly led to slaughter was decidedly to seek. 

Perhaps one ought to mention a question that is discussed a good 
deal to-day. Could we say that those who lost their lives during the 
Great War, and who discharged their exalted duty from motives 
that referred to Christ, are entitled to the name of martyr ? It is 
hard to see how they can be entitled to that name. For one thing, 
they did not suffer for the cause of Christ, as they were put to death, 
not for being Christians, but because they belonged to this or that 
nation. Again, they did not submit to death, but were overcome 
by force. If we admit to the merit of martyrdom all those who bear 

1 Tacitus, AnnaL, 1. 15, n. 44. 2 Isa, liii 7. 


their death from Christian motives, then it is hard to see how any 
good Christian can be excluded. For any good man might suffer 
his last illness and accept his death from Christian motives. It is 
true that the word martyrdom can be used in a certain broad sense 
of all those whose motives Christianise their death ; but they cannot 
be called martyrs in the strict sense of the word. Certainly, we may 
believe that anyone who accepts death that comes to him in the dis- 
charge of duty, from some Christian motive, may immediately be 
admitted to Heaven. It would be very rash to disbelieve it, since 
Christ has said that greater love than this no man hath, that a man 
should lay down his life for his friend. 1 One might, therefore, regard 
death in such circumstances as a proof of baptism of Charity or 
Desire of which more anon . 

Is it necessary, for true martyrdom, that the motive which 
prompts one to give one's life should be perfect charity or love of 
God ? It is not. It is sufficient that one should accept death for 
any motive of Holy Faith, such as the fear of Hell, the hope of 
Heaven, and so on. 

Having determined with precision what we mean by martyrdom, 
we must show that it is equivalent to baptism. This is put beyond 
doubt by the words of Christ : " He that shall lose his life for me 
shall find it." 2 It is also shown by the constant teaching of the 
Church. We find, for instance, that the cult of the Holy Innocents 
is of the greatest antiquity. Their feast is to be found in the Leonine 
Sacramentary, which is one of the oldest liturgical books we possess, 
and it is also found in the Gelasian Sacramentary, which is the most 
important of the early liturgical books of the Latin rite. Besides, 
the Fathers of the Church affirm this truth in the most unmistakable 
way. St Cyril of Jerusalem says : " If a person has not been 
baptised he cannot be saved, always excepting martyrs, who receive 
the kingdom without water. Our Saviour, who redeemed the world 
through the Cross, sent forth blood and water from his pierced 
side ; so that in time of peace men might be saved by water, and in 
time of persecution by their own blood." 3 St Augustine says that 
those who die for confessing Christ without being baptised have 
their sins forgiven by their death, just as much as if they had been 
washed in the sacred font of baptism. And if Christ said that unless 
a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter 
into the Kingdom of Heaven, he also said : " He that shall lose his 
life for me shall find it." 4 St Augustine tells us, too, that he who 
prays for the martyrs commits an outrage against them. 5 St Cyprian 
asks us : " Can the power of baptism be greater or stronger than 
the confession a man makes by confessing Christ before men, and 
being baptised in his own blood ? " 6 

1 John xv 13. 2 Matt, x 39. 

3 Catech. 3, n. 10. 4 L. 13 de civ. Dei, c. 7. 

5 Serm. 17 de verbis apost. 6 Ep* ad lubaian., n. 21. 


Martyrdom, then, is baptism. How does it compare with the 
Sacrament of Baptism ? It is less and greater. It is less, because 
it is the Sacrament alone that confers the Character. It is greater, 
because it not only justifies the soul, but it removes as the Sacra- 
ment does not the possibility of the soul ever being stained again 
by sin, and places it in the white stole of radiant sanctity in the 
presence of God. The martyrs are those who have come through 
a great tribulation, and have washed their stoles and made them 
white in the Blood of the Lamb. 1 

Charity We have said that Charity, or Desire, as it is just as frequently 

Baptism of called, is another form of baptism. And here, again, let us define 
esire what we mean by the word, and then show how it is equivalent to 


We may say quite briefly that charity is an act of the love of God 
because he is infinitely good in himself, or an act of perfect contrition 
that is, contrition arising from the motive of the love of God. In 
an adult sinner charity will always imply the presence of contrition ; 
for no sinner could love God unless he was sorry for his sin. 

Now, an act of charity always and necessarily contains a desire 
for the Sacrament of Baptism, hence the expression Baptism of 
Desire. The reason why it must contain this desire is that an act 
of the love of God must contain a desire of conforming to his will 
in every way. Therefore, since it is God's will that we should re- 
ceive the Sacrament of Baptism, this act must contain the desire for 
baptism. But this desire may either be implicit or explicit, and 
each alternative requires our careful consideration. 

The desire is explicit, for example, in a catechumen who is in- 
structed in all the essential truths of faith, who is actually preparing 
to be baptised, and is well disposed in every way. If, however, a 
catechumen were well instructed, and yet his baptism had to be 
postponed because he was unwilling to give up something grievously 
sinful in his life, we could not say that he had baptism of desire, 
as it is evident that he has not charity. It is implicit in anyorxe who 
makes an act of the love of God, and, through invincible ignorance, 
does not know of the necessity of sacramental baptism. This might 
happen in a country like England to people who are not baptised. 
They might easily know sufficient of the truths of faith to make an 
act of the love of God, and yet be in ignorance of the true necessity 
of baptism, which they would not, therefore, explicitly desire. 
Might it not also happen to heathens who had never heard of Christ ? 
It might, if we suppose that these heathens have in some way ob- 
tained the necessary minimum knowledge of Revelation, and are 
capable of a salutary faith and hope in God. For it is very important 
to understand that when we speak of charity, we do not mean just 
any kind of love of God above all else, such as the natural love of a 
creature for its Creator. Charity is essentially a love of friendship 

1 Apoc. vii 14. 


(Our Blessed Lord does not call us servants, but friends), which 
implies an intimate communication with God, such as is only possible 
in a supernatural order. The existence of this supernatural order 
can only be known through Revelation. Charity, therefore, cannot 
exist without at least the knowledge of the principal truth of Revela- 
tion, which St Paul describes for us in his Epistle to the Hebrews, 
when he says : " He that cometh to God must believe that he is,' 
and is a rewarder of them that seek him." How heathens have in 
some way received or can in some way receive this minimum know- 
ledge of revealed truth it would be outside the scope of this essay to 
enquire. 1 

That charity infallibly justifies man, obtaining remission of all 
sin and infusion of grace, is evident from the words of Christ : " He 
that loveth me shall be loved of my Father ; and I will love him and 
will manifest myself to him/' 2 Again : " If any one love me he 
will keep my word. And my Father will love him : and we will 
come to him and will make our abode with him/* 3 And again, 
when the lawyer answered Christ's question, saying- " Thou shalt 
love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole 
soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind/' our Blessed 
Lord rejoined : " This do, and thou shalt live." * No portion of 
the Sacred Scriptures makes it clearer to us that this charity is the 
love of friendship than the writings of St John, who tells us once 
directly, and in numerous passages equivalently, that charity is of 
God, and every one that loveth is born of God. 5 

In these passages of the Sacred Scriptures there is not, as is 
evident, the least suggestion that there should be any explicit know- 
ledge of the need of the Sacrament of Baptism. In patristic times 
we find abundant proof of the sufficiency of charity where the desire 
of baptism is explicit. We may quote, as an example, the famous 
funeral oration of St Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian, who 
died as a catechumen. He says that he had heard people expressing 
regret that the Emperor was not baptised. He points out that the 
Emperor had the intention of being baptised, and had asked him, 
St Ambrose, to baptise him. Will he not then receive the grace 
which he desired and obtain what he asked for ? Did he not court 
unpopularity on the very day before his death, by putting Christ 
before men on the question of the pagan temples ? If he had the 
spirit of Christ, did he not receive the Grace of Christ ? If the 
martyrs are cleansed in their blood, then so is he in his good-will 
and piety. 6 

Could we say that the Fathers recognised charity as equivalent 
to baptism where the desire for baptism was only implicit ? They 
did not develop this point for us, with the exception of St Augustine, 

1 See Essay xvii, Actual Grace, pp. 608-610. 2 John xiv ai. 

3 John xiv 23. < Luke x 27, 28. 

5 i John iv 7. Z)e ob. Valen, cons., n. 51, 


who may be said to have defended the sufficiency of charity without 
any explicit reference to baptism. In discussing the question of the 
salvation of the Penitent Thief, he is not altogether satisfied with 
St Cyprian's contention that he died a martyr, but seems more dis- 
posed to attribute his salvation to his faith and the conversion of his 
heart. It is true that St Augustine afterwards expresses uncertainty 
about the whole question of the Penitent Thief ; but, quite indepen- 
dently of this question, he recognises faith and the conversion of the 
heart as a means of justification ; l basing his argument on the text 
of St Paul : " For with the heart, we believe unto justice ; but with 
the mouth, confession is made unto salvation." 2 The development 
of this point after St Augustine was but slow, yet always inclining 
towards the acceptance of charity with the implicit desire as sufficient. 
To-day it is the opinion of all theologians. It is, of course, always 
understood that charity with the explicit desire exists only if there is 
the intention of receiving the Sacrament when possible ; and that 
charity with the implicit desire exists only when the ignorance of the 
Sacrament and of its necessity is invincible and therefore inculpable. 
How does charity compare with the Sacrament of Baptism ? 
It is something less. For, though it is sufficient for justification, 
it does not give the Character which comes from the Sacrament, 
and it does not necessarily remit all debt of temporal punishment. 
We say it does not necessarily remit all debt of temporal punishment ; 
but we do not deny that an act of charity might be so perfect as to 
secure this end as well. 

Summary To sum up : apart from martyrdom, the Sacrament of Baptism, 

either in reality or in desire, is necessary for salvation. Martyrdom 
and charity, or baptism of desire, we recognise as equivalent to 
baptism as regards their essential effects. Any other way of re- 
ceiving justification, such as that invoked by Cajetan, we reject. 
Let us suppose that the State were to make some law to the effect 
that to obtain certain rights and privileges the taking of a certain 
oath were necessary. It is conceivable that these rights and privileges 
might be granted to people who did not take this oath because, for 
some excusable reason, it was not in their power to do so, but who 
had otherwise given indisputable and even extraordinary proof of 
their loyalty. On the other hand, it is not conceivable that they 
would receive these rights and privileges simply because they had 
employed some rite of their own, other than the oath which the 
State had sanctioned. In the same way using the example for 
what it is worth we recognise that Almighty God accepts the giving 
of one's love and the giving of one's life on the part of those for 
whom the actual reception of the Sacrament itself is not possible. 
But we can never admit that he would recognise some positive rite 
as an alternative to the law of sacramental baptism which he has 

1 L. 4 de bapt., c. 22. * Rom. x 10. 



ALL that has to be said about the minister of baptism can be summed 
up in these two statements : First, anyone, man or woman, baptised 
or unbaptised, can validly administer the Sacrament of Baptism. 
Secondly : while all can administer this Sacrament validly, only 
priests (and bishops, of course) are the ordinary lawful ministers of 
it ; others being lawful ministers only in cases of necessity, In the 
first statement, then, we deal with the valid administration of bap- 
tism, and in the second with its lawful administration. Let us 
examine each of these statements in detail. 

We say that anyone can validly administer this Sacrament. Is Valid 
it possible to establish this truth from the Sacred Scriptures alone ? minister, 
In the full ambit of our assertion, no. The chief argument, therefore, anyone 
must come from the tradition of the Church. But we can say this 
much : that the Scriptures make it clear to us that others besides 
priests and bishops can administer this Sacrament, and that the posi- 
tion of baptism, in this respect, as compared with the other Sacraments, 
is unique. 

It is, of course, certain that the Apostles baptised, as they were 
commanded by Christ to do. Very probably St Paul baptised less 
than any of the other Apostles, as he tells us that his work was to 
preach the Gospel rather than to baptise. 1 Yet he certainly ad- 
ministered baptism on different occasions. We are told, for instance, 
in the Acts of the Apostles, that he baptised his gaoler and all the 
gaoler's family ; and at Corinth he baptised Crispus and Caius and 
the household of Stephanas. 2 But it is clear from the Scriptures 
that not only the Apostles, but even a deacon could baptise. For 
Philip, who was only a deacon, baptised Simon the Magician, a 
number of people in Samaria, and the eunuch of Queen Can dace. 3 
More interesting still is the baptism of St Paul himself, as it is prob- 
able that Ananias, who baptised him at Damascus, was only a simple 
layman. 4 It is true, of course, that Ananias did this in obedience 
to a command that came directly from Christ himself, and the 
incident cannot, on that account, be claimed as an indication of 
any general custom. The conclusion, therefore, which we are en- 
titled to draw from the evidence of the Scriptures is this : that the 
administration of baptism, is not on a par with the other Sacraments, 
as we find that not only priests, but deacons, and possibly the faithful 
laity, can baptise. As to whether heretics or infidels can validly 
baptise we cannot say on the authority of the Scriptures, and must, 
therefore, seek our information from tradition. Let us briefly follow 
this interesting question in its historical setting. 

The teaching of the Fathers of the Church on this question of 
valid ministry may be stated in this way : apart from the solemn 

1 i Cor. i 17. 2 Ibid, i 14, *6. 

3 Acts viii. * Ibid, ix 18. 


administration of baptism, and when it is not possible to have re- 
course to the clergy, any baptised person can administer this Sacra- 

A constitution attributed to Pope St Victor (189-198), authorises 
the administration of baptism in case of necessity, in any place 
whatsoever, by a Christian to a pagan who has previously recited 
the symbol of faith. St Cyril of Jerusalem tells us that baptism can 
be conferred by the ignorant as well as by the learned, by slaves as 
well as by freemen. 1 Clearly, though he is speaking of Christians, 
St Cyril is not speaking of the clergy alone, as they would not come 
under the category of the ignorant. St Jerome tells us that though 
neither a priest nor a deacon can ordinarily baptise without chrism 
and the mandate of a bishop ; yet, if necessity arises, even laymen 
can baptise. 2 We need not multiply quotations on a point that is so 
often stated by the Fathers. No doubt there was some dissent, but 
the general Catholic custom and conviction was clear and emphatic. 
It was, however, always recognised that a person baptised in such 
circumstances of necessity by a layman should present himself, as 
soon as possible, to a bishop, for the imposition of hands and the 
Sacrament of Confirmation. None the less, should anyone die who 
had been baptised by a layman, and had not been confirmed, his 
salvation was regarded as secure. The reader may be puzzled as 
to the urgency of Confirmation ; it simply arose from the fact that 
originally Confirmation and, for that matter, Holy Communion 
followed immediately after baptism, the rite of initiation embracing 
all three Sacraments. 

Validity of So far we have shown that the Fathers held that the faithful 

heretical could baptise. But what of heretics ? To answer this question 
bapttsm we must k r i e: fly review the controversy on the point in patristic 

Towards the end of the second century, when the heretical sects 
were becoming discredited, many of their members, moved by 
grace, sought to be reconciled to the Catholic Church. On what 
conditions were they to be admitted to the Catholic Church ? If 
they had originally been Catholics who had lapsed into heresy the 
question was readily answered : they were obliged to do penance, 
often for long periods of time, and were reconciled to the Church. 
But suppose that they had never been Catholics, and had received 
baptism at the hands of heretics ? The general custom was to 
admit them to the Church after the imposition of hands, and not to 
baptise them again ; provided, of course, that the heretical sect 
from which they came had preserved the correct rite, or, as we should 
say, the matter and form of the Sacrament. In certain localities, 
however, it was thought that they should be rebaptised. This 
custom was followed in Proconsular Africa at the beginning of the 
third century. How did it arise ? Very probably from the erroneous 

1 Cat. t xvii 35. 2 Dial. cont. Lutif., 9. 


view of Tertullian that the baptism administered by heretics differed 
from that administered by Catholics. Since then there is but one 
baptism * and that the baptism given by Catholics, anything differing 
from it cannot be baptism at all, and therefore heretics do not validly 
baptise. This doctrine had been sanctioned by a local council of 
the bishops of Proconsular Africa and Numidia under Agrippinus, 
Bishop of Carthage, and a contemporary of Tertullian. 

The position thus takea up was bound to lead to trouble before 
long, and matters came to a head under St Cyprian, who was made 
Bishop of Carthage, probably in the beginning of the year 249. 
He, like St Augustine, had been converted from a life of pleasure, and 
had become distinguished for his zeal in defending Catholicity and 
defeating heresy. But, unlike the great Augustine, he allowed his 
zeal to flourish at the expense of his better judgement and discretion. 
Being asked by a certain Magnus if it were necessary to re-baptise 
members of the Novatian sect who wished to be reconciled to the 
Church, he replied with emphasis in the affirmative. In 255 he 
was asked a similar question by eighteen bishops of Numidia. Again 
Quintus, a bishop of Mauritania, asked him this question, and from 
one source or another he was continually consulted on this particular 
point. His answer was always the same : such people should always 
be re-baptised. Cyprian even expressed astonishment that any of 
his colleagues should admit heretics to the fold without first re- 
baptising them ; preferring so he said to do honour to heretics 
rather than to agree with him. 

At a council of the bishops of Proconsular Africa and Numidia 
in the autumn of 255 it was declared that baptism administered by 
heretics was null and void. Cyprian himself informed the Pope, 
St Stephen, of this decision. Stephen, invoking the tradition of 
the Apostles, condemned the African custom and proclaimed the 
validity of baptism administered by heretics. He further threatened 
to break off ordinary relations with the recalcitrant African bishops 
if his decision was not accepted. Whether he ever put this threat 
into effect is not known. Apparently the question of excommunica- 
tion never arose, as alarums and excursions of this kind between 
Rome and Africa were not uncommon, and it was not customary 
to resort to excommunication. Stephen's decision, however, was 
not accepted, and two further councils in Africa, in the spring of 
256 and on September i of the same year, in which the error was 
adhered to, made matters worse rather than better. There is nothing 
to show that Cyprian ever came to any agreement with Stephen, 
who was martyred on August 2, 257, shortly after the first edict of 
Valerian. But the fact that Cyprian immediately resumed relations 
with the successor of Stephen, Pope Sixtus II, would show that there 
had been no complete rupture between the Holy See and Africa. 
Cyprian himself was martyred on September 14, 258, being beheaded 

1 Eph. iv 5. 


at the gates of his episcopal villa, and being the first bishop of Africa 
to win the martyr's crown. 

His error, however, did not die with him, but continued to create, 
not indeed an open breach, but a divergence between Rome and 
Africa. But the truth is great and it gradually prevailed. Thus, 
the Council of Aries in 314 declares that baptism conferred by heretics 
is valid, provided they administer it correctly as the Catholic Church 
does, and with the invocation of the Blessed Trinity. Again, a canon 
added to the Council of Constantinople in 381 declares that baptism 
administered by certain heretics, such as the Arians, Novatians, and 
others, is valid ; whereas that administered by the Eunomians, 
Montanists, and Sabellians is invalid ; because the latter do not 
administer the Sacrament correctly with the formula of the Blessed 
Trinity. Finally, the victory of Rome was for ever assured by the 
writings of St Augustine, who developed the entire theological 
doctrine of this Sacrament to such an extent that he left little indeed 
to be completed by his successors. 

So much for this very brief historical outline of this controversy. 
Let us now ask, To what error in doctrine was the behaviour of 
Cyprian due ? Undoubtedly to this, that he did not distinguish 
between validity and lawfulness in the administration of a Sacra- 
ment. He did not realise that, though it may be unlawful to ad- 
minister baptism in certain circumstances, yet it may be quite validly 
done in spite of that. We say that he did not realise this ; for one 
could scarcely say that he positively did not know it. Quite early 
in the controversy one Jubaianus had put the situation neatly to him, 
by pointing out a distinction between the unlawfulness of the 
minister's action and the validity of what he did. It is not a question, 
said Jubaianus, of who did a thing, but of what he did. Cyprian 
replies that such baptism cannot be recognised as valid, as what is 
done is illicit. His otherwise admirable zeal kept him from re- 
flecting that an action may be illicit and yet be valid. 

We sum up the teaching of the Fathers, as shown by the history 
of the controversy, in this way : the valid administration of baptism 
depends on the use of the correct rite. If this is followed, heretics 
can baptise validly as well as others. If they mutilate this rite they 
do not administer baptism. In other words (the words of the School- 
men), if you intend to administer the baptism of Christ and use the 
right matter and form you do administer it ; if you destroy either 
the matter or the form you do not administer it. 

Even the un- So far we have shown that the Fathers taught that any baptised 
baptised can person, be he one of the faithful or a heretic, can validly baptise. 
aptise g ut can t j lose W j 10 are not themselves baptised administer this 

Sacrament ? The Fathers do not answer this question, which to 
them was academic rather than practical. But they give us, very 
clearly, the lines on which the answer is to be found, by their in- 
sistence that the validity of baptism does not depend on the minister 


or the kind of person he may be, but on the fact that, wishing to 
administer the baptism of Christ, he uses the correct rite. St 
Augustine indeed raises the question in a speculative way. Though 
he does not dogmatically answer it, he gives his opinion very strongly : 
anyone who follows the rite instituted by Christ administers baptism 
validly. 1 After the Fathers, this question was gradually developed, 
and by the time of St Thomas it was universally held by theologians 
that anyone, man or woman, baptised or unbaptised, could validly 
baptise. It must, of course, be clearly understood that a right in- 
tention, that is, an intention of doing what the Church of Christ 
does, is always necessary for the validity of the Sacrament. 

Why did our Blessed Lord confer this power of baptising, not 
upon his priests alone, but upon the whole world ? No doubt, as 
St Thomas tells us, because it is due to the great mercy of God that 
he should make it easy for men to obtain whatever is absolutely 
necessary for their salvation. Now always prescinding from 
martyrdom the actual reception of the Sacrament of Baptism is 
absolutely necessary for the salvation of infants, and the actual or 
desired reception of it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of 
adults, and for the remission of all debt of punishment. Therefore 
our Blessed Lord has given this power to all ; assigning water as the 
matter of the Sacrament, in order that we might have an agency of 
salvation that is easily found. 

The second part of this subject need not detain us long. We 
have shown that anyone can validly baptise. We have now to show 
that this power must not be used indiscriminately. Let us insist, 
however, that whether lawful or illicit the baptism is always valid, so 
long as the minister who intends to baptise uses the correct matter 
and form. 

That the ordinary lawful minister of baptism is a priest or bishop Ordinary 
arises simply in this way : only those who have received a special lawful 
authorisation from Christ to administer the Sacraments to others ^^or 
are the ordinary lawful ministers of them. Now, it is only priests bishop 
who have this special authorisation. From what does this special 
authorisation come ? It comes from the Character imprinted on 
their souls by the Sacrament of Holy Order, which deputes them 
to the administration of sacred things to others, making them, as 
St Paul has it, dispensers of the mysteries of God. 2 Could a deacon 
administer this Sacrament solemnly ? By a special commission 
from a bishop he could do so, but not otherwise. His position is 
not that of a priest, because the office proper to the diaconate is not 
to administer the Sacraments solemnly to others, but to assist the 
priests when they are engaged in doing so. 

The solemn administration of this Sacrament, then, is reserved 
to the clergy, and in no conceivable circumstances could anybody 
else administer baptism solemnly that is, in its official liturgical 

1 De bapt. cont. donat. t vii 53, 102, 2 i Cor. iv i. 


setting. The reason for this is that the solemn administration of a 
Sacrament implies that one is acting in virtue of a special authorisa- 
tion from Christ, such as comes only through the Sacrament of Holy 
Order ; in virtue of an office which is proper to the state in which 
the Character of Holy Order places one. The administration of 
baptism by the laity is, as it were, unofficial, and therefore can never 
be solemn or ceremonial. It is therefore called private baptism. 

Unofficial action, however, in things divine as well as human, 
is often lawful in matters of great urgency. On this account it is 
lawful for anyone to baptise in case of necessity. Such necessity 
arises when a priest cannot be had, and the salvation of a soul may 
depend on baptism here and now. This we have already shown 
from the traditional teaching of the Church. The passages we have 
quoted in order to prove that anyone can baptise are also passages 
which demonstrate that it is only in circumstances of necessity that 
it is lawful for people, other than priests, to do so. It is important 
to note that, when necessity arises, it is not only lawful but obligatory 
to baptise. The obligation arises from the fact that if baptism is 
not given under such circumstances a soul is deprived of salvation. 
When a priest cannot be had, then, it is lawful and obligatory to 
baptise an infant in danger of death, or an adult in similar danger, 
who has faith and contrition and wishes to be baptised. In the 
case of infant baptism a parent ought not to baptise if some other 
person is available, and a woman should not baptise if a man can be 

Some Before concluding this section we must mention a few points 

instructions which it may be useful and even necessary for a section of our readers 
to know. 1 

1. No infant should be baptised in its mother's womb, as long 
as there is a probability of its being born alive. 

2. If, in childbirth, the head of the infant emerges, and the 
infant is in imminent da'nger of death, it must be baptised on the 

3. If some other member, such as the hand, emerges, and a similar 
danger exists, the infant must be baptised conditionally on that 
member ; the person who baptises saying : "If thou art capable of 
being baptised, I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the 
Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The reason why the conditional 
clause is inserted is that we cannot be sure if the washing of such a 
member as the hand is a true washing of the body. Should the infant 
(so baptised conditionally) be born and live, it must be baptised 
conditionally in this way : "If thou art not baptised, I now baptise 
thee," etc. Should the baptism administered previously not have 
been true baptism, owing to the absence of a washing of the body, 
it is now made certain. The necessity for the condition expressed 
in the words, " If thou art not baptised," arises from the fact that 

1 See Codex luris Can., c. 746. 


we must not attempt to repeat the administration of this Sacrament. 
However, unless a new necessity arose, this second conditional act 
would be done by a priest. 

4. If a pregnant mother dies, and the foetus is extracted, it should 
be baptised if alive ; if there is doubt as to its being alive, it should 
be baptised conditionally " If thou art capable," etc. 

5. A foetus baptised in the womb should be baptised conditionally 
after birth " If thou art not baptised," etc. ; this conditional act 
would, unless a new necessity arose, be done by a priest. 

6. All abortions, at whatever period of pregnancy they may 
occur, should be baptised if they are alive, and should be baptised 
conditionally (" If thou art capable ") if there is doubt of their being 

7. The way to administer baptism is this : The person who 
baptises, intending to administer this Sacrament, pours some water 
on the forehead of the person to be baptised, saying at the same time 
(the action accompanying the words) : "I baptise thee in the name 
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." It is correct, 
though not necessary for the validity, to give a name when baptising, 
thus : " John, I baptise thee," etc. 

8. Those who have been baptised by the laity should be brought, 
as soon as possible, to church, to have the ceremonies supplied by a 


WE have already seen that baptism is necessary for all. In speaking, 
then, of the subject of baptism here, we are simply dealing with the 
conditions requisite for the reception of this Sacrament. It will 
be convenient to divide this section into two, corresponding to 
the answers to these two questions : i. What condition is required 
for the valid reception of baptism ? z. What conditions are re- 
quired for the lawful reception of baptism ? 

For valid baptism no further condition is requisite on the part Conditions 
of the adult subject than the intention of receiving this Sacrament/^*^ 
Needless to say, no conditions whatsoever are necessary for valid 
baptism on the part of infants. So long, then, as an adult has the 
intention of being baptised he is validly baptised. Any wrong dis- 
positions on his part cannot interfere with the validity of the Sacra- 
ment. Even though he may, owing to these wrong dispositions, be 
guilty of sacrilege, he is none the less validly baptised. 

What conditions are required for the lawful reception of this Conditions 
Sacrament ? Baptism, as we have seen, is a Sacrament which d 
stroys all sin and all consequence of sin in our souls, and which bestows 
upon us a new life. Now, this destruction of sin and birth to a new 
life obliges us to a renunciation of Satan and to faith in the teaching 
of Christ. For we could not live according to this new life unless we 
had been cleansed from original sin, unless we were determined not 


to sin, and unless we knew and believed in the teaching of Christ. 
Again, actual sin and its consequences in our souls could not be 
destroyed unless we repented of them. It is clear, then, that the 
two conditions attaching to the lawful reception of baptism are these : 
faith and the renunciation of Satan. Let us now see how these con- 
ditions must be fulfilled in every kind of circumstance. 

For an adult sinner the conditions necessary for the lawful re- 
ception of baptism are faith and repentance. Let us explain our 
terms. By an adult sinner we mean one who, in addition to in- 
heriting original sin, has also been guilty of actual sin. By faith 
we do not, obviously, mean the virtue of faith possessed as a prin- 
ciple of activity arising from habitual grace (for baptism is the means 
to this habitual grace), but simply an act of faith to which the aspirant 
to baptism is assisted by actual graces from God, preparing and dis- 
posing him for the habitual grace that is to come from baptism. 
By repentance we mean that, in the case of an actual sinner, the 
renunciation of Satan must inevitably include contrition for the actual 
sins of which he has been guilty. Nor, unless one would deny the 
great efficacy of this Sacrament, is it necessary that the contrition 
should be perfect. Imperfect contrition is quite sufficient for the 
reception of this Sacrament, as it is for the reception of the Sacrament 
of Penance. Let it be noted, however, that contrition is required 
as a part of the Sacrament of Penance ; the acts of the penitent 
being the matter of the Sacrament, without which the Sacrament 
cannot exist. In baptism, on the contrary, contrition is required 
as a disposition only : the matter of the Sacrament being the washing 
of the body with water, so that the absence of contrition would make 
the reception of baptism unlawful, but it would not invalidate it. 
The teaching That these dispositions of faith and repentance are necessary 
of Scripture or a< j u lt s i nners i s shown to us in the Sacred Scriptures. Our 

and JL radition _ , i T i / i * i i 

Blessed Lord joins faith and baptism together, saying that whoever 
believes and is baptised will be saved. 1 Again, the eunuch said to 
Philip : " See, here is water : what doth hinder me from being 
baptised ? " And Philip said : " If thou believes t with all thy 
heart, thou mayest." 2 Moreover, when the multitude, moved to 
compunction by Peter's words, ask him what they shall do, he replies : 
" Do penance, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus 
Christ, for the remission of your sins." 3 Again, it is the most ob- 
vious of truths that, throughout our Lord's teaching, there is this 
insistence on the conversion of the heart as a necessary condition 
for admission to his Kingdom. 

These two conditions were recognised and insisted upon by the 
Church from the earliest times. The whole system of the catecbu- 
menate, in which aspirants to baptism were prepared, is based upon 
these two ideas : that they must know the teaching of Christ and 
believe in it, and that they must repent of their sins. The gradual 

1 Mark xvi 16. 2 Acts viii 36, 37. a Acts ii 38. 


understanding of the faith that came through the instructions of the 
catechumen ate brought these aspirants to a realisation of the un- 
happy state to which sin had brought their souls. This realisation, 
when they did not resist the working of grace, led them to a detesta- 
tion of sin, to a readiness to renounce it, and a longing for the holy 
way of life to which the grace of baptism would raise them ; the 
aspirants being helped still further by the exorcisms of the Church, 
through which Satan is expelled from their souls, and forced to give 
way to the Holy Spirit. The enlightenment, too, that comes through 
faith gives them a new taste for the things of the Spirit and a de- 
testation for the works of darkness. In the solemn administration 
of baptism to-day these renunciations of Satan, profession of faith, 
and exorcisms, are embodied in one beautiful liturgical act. It 
would be very interesting to explain all this beautiful liturgy in detail, 
but, unfortunately, it would take us outside the modest scope of this 
little essay. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a summing up 
of what we have said on the necessity of these conditions of faith 
and repentance by the following words from the Council of Trent : 

" Men are prepared for justification in this way : aroused and 
sustained by divine grace, led to believe from what they have heard, 
they turn to God freely, believing in the truth of the Divine Revela- 
tions and promises, and believing especially that God justifies the 
sinner by his grace, through the work of Redemption by Jesus Christ. 
Then, as they know that they are sinners, they pass from the fear of 
Divine justice, which oppresses them for their good, to a consideration 
of the mercy of God ; they are raised to hope, confident that, for the 
sake of Christ, God will help them ; and they thus begin to love him 
as the source of all justice. In this way they begin to turn from sin 
with hate and detestation ; that is, by that sort of repentance that is 
necessary before baptism. Finally, they form a resolution to be 
baptised, to commence a new life, and to keep the commandments 
of God." 

But suppose that an adult sinner does not so repent, and is yet The "re- 
baptised ? He is certainly validly baptised, but he can receive no f va }. " f 

* , ,-, 1-111 i 1^1 i baptism un- 

grace from the Sacrament which he has received. Can he dver wort ^i y 
receive grace from his baptism ? He certainly can ; for the baptismal received 
Character which he has received entitles him to sacramental grace, 
as soon as the obstacle of sin in his soul is removed. When is this 
obstacle removed ? Fully to answer this question, we must consider 
three hypotheses. 

First, let us suppose that he received baptism, without repenting, 
in good faith that is, not knowing or suspecting that such repentance 
was necessary for its lawful reception. And, let us further suppose, 
that he has committed no grave sin since being baptised. In such 
circumstances he receives the grace of the Sacrament the moment 
he makes a simple act of repentance, as by doing so he removes the 
only obstacle in his soul. Secondly, let us suppose that he receives 


the Sacrament without repenting, in good faith as before, but that 
since receiving it he has been guilty of grave sin. In this case he 
must go to Confession, and the moment he is absolved each Sacra- 
ment produces the effect of grace proper to it in his soul. But in 
this case it is to be noted that all temporal punishment attached to 
sin is remitted by baptism only as regards those sins committed 
before baptism ; the temporal punishment due to the sin committed 
after baptism not being affected by that Sacrament. Thirdly, sup- 
pose that he is baptised in bad faith that is, knowing that he ought 
to repent and yet not doing so. He then receives no sacramental 
grace until he has been to Confession. This case differs from the 
second, because he actually committed a sacrilege in being baptised. 
Now, when he is absolved, is the temporal punishment due to this 
sin of sacrilege removed by baptismal grace ? Not so, because it 
belongs to the period after baptism. Certainly, in the order of time 
it is simultaneous with baptism, but, in the nature of things, it is 
really after baptism, as it impedes that ultimate effect of baptism 
which is grace. In each of these hypotheses, it may be well to point 
out, the Sacrament of Penance does not produce the sacramental 
grace of baptism, but simply removes the obstacle of sin, thus 
allowing baptism to reach its ultimate effect. 

Is it necessary that along with repentance one should confess 
one's sins and have satisfactory works imposed ? Certainly not. 
The confession of sin is necessary for one who, being a member of 
the Church through the baptismal Character, falls into sin and be- 
comes thereby subject to the judicial and merciful power of that 
Church to which he belongs. Satisfactory works cannot be neces- 
sary, for he who is baptised dies to sin as Christ died to redeem us. 
We cannot, then, without detracting from the efficacy of the Passion 
and death of Christ, recognise any consequence of sin remaining in 
the soul of the baptised. 

Infant So much for the adults. And now what of infants ? Before 

baptism speaking of any conditions relating to their baptism, let us ask this 
question : is it right to baptise them at all ? There is no direct answer 
to this question in the Scriptures, but there is no mistaking the direct- 
ness of the answer supplied from tradition. Origen spoke truly in 
saying that the Church received this custom from the Apostles. 1 
Even those who, like Harnack, deny the apostolicity of this custom, 
are none the less obliged to admit that it was a widespread custom 
in the time of Tertullian, who was born about the year 160. We 
have said that there is no direct answer in the Scriptures, but let us 
not forget that St Paul tells us that the grace of Christ abounds much 
more than the sin of Adam. 2 If it were not possible for infants to 
be baptised, and thereby be released from the effect of Adam's 
sin, it could scarcely be said that the grace of Christ abounded more 
than the sin of Adam, which was universal in its effect on mankind. 

1 In Rom., 1. v, 9. 2 Rom. v 15. 


There Is one objection to the baptism of infants which we ought 
to answer here. It may be put in this way : It does not seem possible 
that infants could receive the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, 
and the moral virtues too, since they are incapable of making acts of 
Faith, Hope, and Charity, and of performing moral acts. Therefore 
it does not seem possible that they could receive the Sacrament of 
Baptism. Again, they cannot prepare themselves by faith and the 
renunciation of Satan, and consequently cannot be disposed for the 
reception of this Sacrament. 

We answer the first of these difficulties (which are really not very 
profound, but have troubled people here and there since the time 
of Tertullian) as follows : an act and the source or principle from 
which it arises are not the same thing. The act of seeing is not the 
same thing as the sense of sight ; the act of willing is not the same 
thing as the will ; an intellectual act is not the same thing as the in- 
tellect, and so forth. These sources of activity can exist and, of 
course, do exist even when they are not active. If It were true that 
an infant could not receive these virtues as the sources or principles 
of activity of the supernatural life that is given It in baptism, simply 
because it cannot as yet make use of them, then It would be equally 
true that infants could not be human beings, since they cannot per- 
form intellectual acts or moral acts. The principles, then, or sources 
of supernatural activity are there, and will become active coincident 
with the activity of the reason and the will, as soon as the develop- 
ment of the child permits It. 

To the second objection there are several irrefragable answers. 
The first is that the objection implies a misunderstanding of the 
nature of a Sacrament. A Sacrament, of Its Inherent power, pro- 
duces an effect upon the soul when there is no obstacle placed in its 
way by the person to whom it is administered. An infant cannot 
place such an obstacle. . 

Again (and this brings us back to the main subject of this section), 
as regards the obligations of baptism, the obligation to live accord- 
ing to faith and to renounce the devil, we may say at first that nothing 
can be more erroneous than to think that obligations cannot exist 
without the consent of the human will. At the same time the Church 
in divine things, as the State in human things, can and does insist on 
the guaranteeing of these obligations in the case of infants. We have 
seen that baptism obliges one to live according to faith and to re- 
nounce sin. These obligations, as we have stated in the beginning 
of this section, the Church cannot waive. We are, therefore, in 
a position to state the situation with regard to the baptism of infants 
as follows: wherever the discharge of these obligations can be 
guaranteed, not according to absolute certainty, but according to 
human frailty, it is both lawful and obligatory to baptise infants. 
In what circumstances can we say that such a guarantee exists ? 

It exists for all infants who are about to die ; for they cannot, 


from the nature of the case, ever abuse the Sacrament they are about 
to receive, or forfeit the grace, the virtues, and the gifts that it confers. 
Again, children of Christian parents must be baptised, as must also 
children of infidel parents who are abandoned by these parents ; 
the act of abandonment meaning that the parents have forsaken 
their natural rights. 

God-parents By whom is this guarantee to be given ? By the god-parents, 1 
who, by professing faith for the infant and promising to renounce 
Satan on its behalf, guarantee that the child will live according to 
the obligations of baptism, and according to the life and virtues that 
are now conferred upon it. If the parents bring the child up well, 
the god-parents will have nothing to do. If the parents neglect their 
spiritual duties towards the child, the god-parents must seek to 
remedy this omission by whatever zeal and prudence may suggest. 
Let us add, lest an important point of doctrine should be misunder- 
stood, that as the child grows up the obligation of living a good life 
according to faith arises from the Sacrament itself, from the baptismal 
Character, and not from its accepting what the god-parents have 
promised for it. On that point it has no choice. A little practical 
information on the subject of god-parents may be useful. 2 

1. One god-parent is sufficient. There may not be more than 
two, and if there are two they may not both be of the same sex. 

2. Parents may not be god-parents. 

3. God-parents must be Catholics. An excommunicated Catholic 
could not act as a god-parent. 

4. They ought to be chosen by the parents. 

5. They must touch the infant at baptism, either by holding or 
putting a hand on it, or by raising it from the font or from the hands 
of the minister immediately after baptism. This they must do in 
person or by proxy. 

There are also two conditions necessary in order that one may 
lawfully act as a god-parent. 

1. God-parents should not be under thirteen years of age, unless 
the minister of the Sacrament, for some good reason, allows a younger 
to act. 

2. They should know the rudiments of faith. 

Both the minister of the Sacrament and the god-parents contract 
spiritual relationship with the person baptised. When a god-parent 
acts by proxy, it is, of course, the god-parent and not the proxy who 
contracts the spiritual relationship. If baptism is given privately, 
owing to necessity, and no god-parent has been assigned, the person 
who acts as god-parent later on when the ceremonies are being 
supplied does not contract spiritual relationship. 

What of the insane ? If they are incurably insane they are to be 
baptised as infants, and nothing is required of them. God's mercy 

1 Codex Juris Can., c. 769. 2 Ibid., 765, 766. 


is manifest here, inasmuch as those whose condition is most pitiable 
of all in this life are certain of happiness in the next. If, however, 
their insanity is intermittent, it is necessary that they should have 
had at some time the intention of receiving baptism, and should have, 
as far as they are capable, the dispositions required in ordinary- 

Are there any infants for whom these guarantees cannot be 
given ? Yes, the children of unbelievers. It would not be lawful 
to baptise them, as they would be brought up, if not to hate, at least 
to disbelieve in the teaching of Christ, and most probably to follow 
a mode of life inconsistent with the Christian conscience. Nor 
would it be lawful to withdraw these children by force from their 
parents, and bring them up in the faith against their parents' wish. 
For the parents by natural law have the care of their own children, 
and this law would be violated by such compulsion. Wrong must 
never be done that good may come of it. Suppose a child of infidel 
parents had been thus unlawfully baptised. In that case the child 
belongs to the Church, the natural right of the parents yielding to 
the divine right of the Church which the baptismal Character estab- 
lishes. Whether or no the Church would insist on her rights would 
depend on what prudence would have to say to the merits of the 
individual case. 


IN this summary we shall review each of the preceding sections quite 
briefly, pointing out concisely to the reader 'what he must believe, 

I, Of what has been said in this section we must believe that 
baptism is a Sacrament, and that it was instituted by Christ. The 
Council of Trent (which deals exhaustively with baptism in its 
Seventh Session) has defined that all the Sacraments are of Divine 
institution, and that baptism is one of the seven Sacraments. 1 

II. Before putting before the reader what he must believe 
in this section, we must take the precaution of calling his attention 
to the system by which we have divided it. We have divided it 
into three sections, adopting the system of distinguishing between 
the " Sacrament only/' " The Thing," and " The Thing and the 
Sacrament." Now, we must impress upon the reader that he is 
not bound to believe that these three elements are to be found in 
every Sacrament ; for theologians are not in agreement on the point. 
We make use of it, none the less, because it is held by some of the 
greatest theologians, and because it enables us to put information 
before the reader in a tidy and orderly way. The one thing about 
which all theologians are agreed and which the reader must believe 
(on this particular point) is that whenever the Sacrament of Baptism 
is validly received the baptismal Character is given. Let us now 

1 Denz., 844 sq. (1913 ed.). 


point out what one must believe with regard to the different points 
touched upon in this section. 

We are bound to believe that true and natural water is necessary 
for this Sacrament. Anyone who asserts (as Luther somewhat 
vulgarly does in his Table Talk) that other substances, such as milk, 
beer, etc., could be used instead of water, would certainly sin against 
the faith. Still more would one sin who denied that water was 
necessary at all, maintaining that Christ only spoke in a figurative 
way when he mentioned water. Are we bound to believe that 
washing (proximate matter) is necessary ? We are. No Council 
of the Church, it is true, has defined this point for us ; but that is 
simply because the need of such definition has not arisen. To deny 
the necessity of washing would be to contradict the Scriptures, 
which speak of baptism as a laver or washing, and would undermine 
the Scriptural meaning of the word baptism itself ; for it simply 
means a washing. 

What of the form ? We must believe that the expressions signi- 
fying the act of washing and the invocation of the three Divine 
Persons are necessary. Thus, the Council of Florence (1438-1445), 
in its famous decree for the Armenians, says that the form of baptism 
is, " I baptise thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of 
the Holy Ghost " ; or, " The servant of God (so-and-so) is baptised 
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost " ; 
or, " So-and-so is baptised at my hands in the name of the Father, 
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." x The seeming indirect- 
ness of the two latter forms does not militate against their correct- 
ness, because, since the principal cause from which baptism derives 
its efficacy is the Blessed Trinity, the function of the minister is 
sufficiently indicated in these forms. The assertion of the Council 
of Florence is not to be taken as a definition of faith, as the entire 
decree for the Armenians is intended as a practical direction and not 
as a definitive declaration. It is, however, of the highest authority, 
as coming from an Oecumenical Council. Nor are there wanting 
other important documents on this subject. Among thirty-one 
propositions condemned by the Holy Office under Alexander VIII, 
on December 7, 1690, is the following : " Baptism conferred in this 
way * In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
Ghost/ and without the words ' I baptise thee/ is valid/' 2 Again, 
Pope Pelagius I (556-561), in his letter to Gaudentius, Bishop of 
Volterra, says that if it is truly shown that certain heretics have been 
baptised only in the name of the Lord, without the slightest hesita- 
tion they are to be baptised in the name of the Blessed Trinity. 3 
We have, then, the Council of Florence directing us on the whole 
form of baptism, and Alexander and Pelagius directing us on each 
part of it respectively. 

1 Denz., 696. * ibid., 1317. ibid., 229. 


As regards the effects of baptism, we are bound to believe the 
following : that it remits sin, both actual and original, and all tem- 
poral punishment due to sin ; that it gives grace and sanctification, 
virtues and gifts ; that it makes us the adopted children of God ; 
that it gives a Character to the soul ; makes us members of the 
Church ; and that it cannot be repeated. We are, moreover, bound 
to believe that baptism produces all its essential effects in infants 
as well as in adults. 

The Council of Trent has made many definitive assertions on 
the effects of baptism, which we need not go into here, as they are 
primarily assertions against Luther and others, whose errors are so 
out of fashion to-day that the reader is not likely to encounter them. 
Thus, the Council anathematises those who assert that the mere act 
of recalling one's baptism rids one of sins, or that the grace given 
by baptism cannot be lost. 

III. We must believe always excepting the martyrs that 
the Sacrament of Baptism in reality or in desire (Charity) is neces- 
sary as a means of salvation ; and we shall act very prudently in 
believing that the implicit desire, where nothing more is possible, 
is sufficient. . 

We must also believe that martyrdom is a means of justification 
and salvation. This has not formally been defined by the Church, 
but a denial of it would amount to a denial of our Lord's words : 
" He that shall lose his life for me shall find it " ; and it would also 
amount to a contradiction of the teaching and practice of the Church, 
as shown in the writings of the Fathers, of the theologians, and m 
the Sacred Liturgy. 

What if one were to hold the opinion of Cajetan ? One would 
certainly be guilty of grave error. For, though the Council of Trent 
refrained from censuring the opinion of such a great theologian, it 
was ordered that this opinion should be expunged from his works. 

IV. We are bound to believe that priests are the ordinary 

ministers of baptism ; and that, in case of necessity, the laity can 
and ought to administer this Sacrament ; that women as well as 
men, and heretics, can administer it. Are we bound to believe that 
the unbaptised, or infidels, can administer this Sacrament ? Yes, 
inasmuch as it would be rash to go against the opinion of all theologians 
to-day, who maintain that if an infidel had the intention of doing what 
the Church does, and used the correct outward sign, he would baptise 
validly. We might mention here that all converts in England to-day, 
coming from the various sects, are baptised conditionally. The 
principle of the validity of baptism as administered by heretics is 
not at stake here, as the precaution of conditional baptism is taken 
lest, through carelessness, the outward sign might not be correctly 
used. That such carelessness might arise is all the more likely from 
the fact that, outside the Catholic Church, there is no clear theological 
teaching on the nature of the Sacraments and the way in which they 


cause Grace. What of the Intention of the ministers of baptism 
among the sects ? Most probably it is a correct intention ; for we 
may presume that they intend to do what Christ wishes us to do, 
unless (through an acute prejudice against the Church, which must 
be of very rare occurrence) they deliberately excluded the intention 
of doing what the Catholic Church does. In such an event, of 
course, the baptism would be invalid, as a person who will not do 
what the Church (which is the Mystical Body of Christ) does, will 
not do what Christ wishes us to do. 

V. We are obliged to believe that baptism can and ought to 
be given to infants as well as to adults. We are bound to believe 
that infants can and do receive grace and virtues at baptism. We 
are also obliged to believe that for lawful baptism adults must repent 
of their sins, and that they must believe. The words quoted from 
the Council of Trent above, p. 793, make this very clear to us. Also, 
we have a very interesting and important document in the letter of 
Innocent III to Humbert, Archbishop of Aries, in 1201, in, which 
he points out how original sin and actual sin are washed away by 
baptism. We must understand, he tells us, that sin is of two kinds, 
original and actual. Original sin is contracted without our consent, 
and actual is committed with our consent. Original sin, therefore, 
which is contracted without consent, is washed away without consent 
(baptism of infants) ; but actual sin, which is committed with our 
consent, is not forgiven without our consent (need of repentance for 
adult sinners). 

We introduced what we had to say about baptism with the ob- 
servation that there is no Sacrament the existence of which is so 
generally admitted by all. Let us conclude by observing that there 
is no Sacrament concerning which all questions of importance have 
been settled from such an early date. 

In fact, in the course of this essay we have found but two ques- 
tions of importance that were not decisively settled in patristic times. 
These are : first, the question of the sufficiency of the implicit 
desire for baptism of Charity ; and, secondly, the question of the 
validity of baptism administered by the unbaptised. And even in 
these two questions the principles on which a solution should be 
found were laid down. To whom do we principally owe this won- 
derful theological development in patristic times ? It is not a de- 
parture from that sense of proportion which the enthusiast should be 
careful to observe in historical matters, to say that we owe it to the 
great St Augustine. His genius for seizing the fundamental principle 
to be relied upon in the solution of a difficult point, and his remarkable 
precision in stating a case theologically, are all the more praiseworthy 
when we remember that he had not, as the Scholastics had later on, 
the inestimable service of that handmaid of the theologian the 
Aristotelian philosophy. 


But Augustine 'was also indebted to his predecessors. When lie 
was born, November 13, 354, the catechumenates had already been 
in existence for over a century and a half. In these catechumenates 
the aspirants to baptism were tried and instructed, and ail the cere- 
monies and prayers accompanying the immediate preparation of 
those chosen for baptism embody the whole of the Church's teaching 
on baptism ; not indeed expressed in theological terms, but ex- 
pressed in her liturgical prayer, which is the spontaneous utterance 
of her teaching and her truth. Tertullian, who was born about 160, 
was himself, in all probability, a catechist in the school for cate- 
chumens at Carthage. So intense was the interest in baptism in 
his day that his writings not only contain frequent references to it, 
but show a development of the subject in such maturity that there 
is an entertaining air of modernity about them. How shall we 
explain this intense interest, to which the early development of the 
theology of this Sacrament is due ? 

We must remember that while baptism means the same for us 
as it did for Christians in every age, it is probably hard for us to 
realise the wonderful joy and the unexpected hope that this Sacra- 
ment brought to the pagan world of old. To a world that had largely 
begun to despair of itself there came the assurance, on the authority 
of a Church claiming to be and every day proving itself to be divine, 
that no matter what men had done, no matter how old they were, 
no matter how ineradicable their vices had seemed to be, their past 
could be completely wiped out and God himself would take them as 
his friends, enabling them to begin a new life with him and to per- 
severe in that life with fidelity ; the only obligation on their part 
being to prepare themselves by faith and repentance for the wonderful 
graces of baptism. This assurance, and the proof of the mysterious 
efficacy of baptism in the lives and the deaths of the early Christians, 
brought such a new happiness and confidence into the world that it 
led to the greatest reformation, of society that the world has ever 
seen ; a reformation so great, indeed, that it is inexplicable without 
recourse to a miracle of the moral order. 

The writings of the Fathers are a witness to this wonderful 
reformation of society, but nowhere is it more vividly brought before 
us than in the Liturgy of Christian Initiation. Through the en- 
lightenment of mind and the reform of his -will that has resulted 
from his hearing the word of God, the neophyte is given a new taste 
for heavenly wisdom to replace the folly of sin, and an odour of 
sweetness to replace the foulness of Satan. This much results from 
the opening of his ears. But the power of Satan, who would try 
to wrest from the neophyte the good dispositions to which he has 
been brought, is offset by the great exorcisms of the Church. He 
turns to the west, the region of darkness and the setting sun, and for 
ever renounces Satan and all his works and pomps ; then he turns 
to the east, the region of light and the rising sun, and solemnly makes 


his profession of that faith through which he is saved. Finally, he is 
baptised, and, when the rite of his Confirmation and first Holy 
Communion is finished, he is for ever admitted to a land that is 
flowing with the milk and honey of God's abundant Grace. All 
these things are represented and effected by the ceremonies and 
prayers of initiation, of which baptism is the focal point. These 
prayers and ceremonies are so full of a chaste joy, of a new and won- 
derful hope, that they recover for us, with a vividness that is extra- 
ordinary, the iniquity of the pagan world and the wonder of its 
reformation through Holy Baptism. Even the inscriptions in the 
ancient baptisteries bring this hope and joy before us. We may well 
believe that many a poor sinner, so happy and so repentant, read 
through the inscription in the baptistery of the Lateran, and perhaps 
repeated the last two lines again and again : 

" Nee numerus quemquam scelerum, nee forrna suorum 
Terreat, hoc natus flumine salvus erit." 

Which we may translate freely : 

" Let no one be terrified by the number or the nature of his sins ; 
he who is born of these waters will indeed be holy." 




As Baptism is the sacrament of supernatural birth so Confirmation Confirmation 
is the sacrament of supernatural maturity. The baptised are mere the comple- 
infants in the life of grace, modo geniti infantes ; * the confirmed are ^L^ m 
adults, they have reached the status of Christian manhood. Con- 
firmation thus confirms or perfects the life which Baptism has be- 
stowed, and for this reason is called in Christian tradition the con- 
summation, the perfection, or the complement of Baptism, and in 
the early stages of the Church was administered immediately after 
Baptism itself. 

But if the notion of maturity is to convey accurately the peculiar Conferring, 
meaning and effect of Confirmation it must not be understood in the not f*dl 
sense of completed supernatural growth. Full growth in the life growth 
of grace means Christian perfection, it means the attainment of the 
greatest possible likeness to Christ through the perfect exercise of 
the Christian virtues. In this sense the attainment of maturity is, 
quite literally, a life's work ; for of no man can it be said, so long as 
life lasts, that he has reached the full stature of sanctity or achieved 
that particular degree of holiness which God has assigned to him 
for his measure. In the performance of his task he has the valuable 
aid of the sacraments, each of which has its appointed part to play 
in the process of sanctification, but there is no one sacrament which 
of itself confers the seal of accomplishment. It is not in this sense 
that Confirmation perfects the work of Baptism. 

Nor must we allow ourselves, in assigning the place which Con- Nor the 
firmation holds in the sacramental system, to usurp functions for itP ower f 
which belong to other sacraments ; in particular we must not ascribe grow 
to it effects which Baptism already suffices to produce. Thus, we 
might perhaps be tempted to suppose that, Baptism being the sacra- 
ment of birth or infancy, it is for Confirmation to supply that vital 
strength which will enable the infant life to develop. This, however, 
would be to belittle the efficacy of Baptism. It is true that the soul 
newly baptised is supernaturally an infant. But this does not mean 
that it has received only and barely that minimum which is needed 
to make it supernaturally alive. Just as the child newly born to the 
life of this world receives by the natural process of generation all 
those intrinsic vital powers by the development of which he will 
grow to manhood, so the newly baptised Christian possesses already 

1 i Peter ii 2. 

Nor super" 



Nor, speci- 
fically, the 
power of re- 
sistance to 


every inherent supernatural power by the development of which he 
can grow to perfection. Endowed with sanctifying grace, infused 
virtues, gifts of the Holy Ghost, he has within himself all the inner 
principles or springs of supernatural life and activity. It is not, 
therefore, as conferring the power of growth that Confirmation 
perfects the work of Baptism. 

Supernatural growth does indeed call for supernatural nourish- 
ment. But to provide this is, again, not the function of Confirma- 
tion but rather of the Eucharist, instituted by Christ for the very 
purpose of giving us his own true Flesh and Blood as our spiritual 
food. If, therefore, among the sacraments there is one to which 
the supernatural growth of the soul is especially to be attributed, it 
is surely this. " All those effects," writes St Thomas, " which 
material food and drink produce in regard to bodily life are produced 
in respect of the spiritual life by this sacrament : it sustains, it gives 
increase, it repairs loss, it gives delight." * 

Nor, finally, would it seem to be the specific purpose of Con- 
firination to strengthen the life of the soul by arming it against the 
agents of destruction as such, by enabling it to resist the devil, the 
world, and the flesh, which are the enemies of the supernatural life 
of grace. For this also is a function which belongs properly to other 
sacraments. In the first place it belongs to the Eucharist which, 
besides " nourishing and strengthening those who live by the life 
of him who said, ' He that eateth me the same also shall live by me,* 
serves also as an antidote to deliver us from the sins which we daily 
commit and to preserve us from those sins which kill the soul." 2 
And the same effect is also produced by those sacraments (Penance 
and Extreme Unction) whose purpose is not only to repair the ravages 
of sin but also to forearm the soul against temptation by the sacra- 
mental graces which are proper to each. 

We are thus forced to conclude that the maturity which Con- 
firmation bestows is not to be understood merely in terms of vital 
vigour or development. It is in some other characteristic of adult 
Christian age that we must find an analogy to illustrate the special effect of 
this sacrament. What else, apart from the mere fact of physical 
and mental growth, distinguishes the adult from the child ? Surely 
it is the sense of public responsibility. " In childhood," says St 
Thomas, " a human being is an individualist ; he lives, as it were, 
only for himself. But when he reaches the full vigour of manhood 
he begins to exert his activity upon others." 3 The child, naturally 
and legitimately, is an individualist ; he is himself the only object 
of his own solicitude and of the loving care of all who surround him. 
And this is quite right and proper. Nature bids a child direct all 
his powers and energies to his own self-development, to the nourish- 

I Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxix, art. i. 

2 Council of Trent, sess. xiii, cap. z. 

3 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxii, art. 2. 

But the 
power to 
fulfil f one's 
public duty 


ment of his little body and the exercise of his little limbs, to the pre- 
servation of his life against the dangers that beset it especially when 
it is young and tender, to the education and training of the physical 
and mental powers which are to bring him to his full stature as an 
individual human being. A child's responsibilities are all for him- 
self. It is only when he reaches manhood that he must take his 
place as a citizen and shoulder his burden as a member of society. 

Something of the same sort is true of the Christian in his super- The child in 
natural life. His baptismal endowments are intended for his spiritual the li f e J 
status and growth as an individual. " In Baptism," says St Thomas, grace 
" a man receives power for those actions which concern his own 
salvation, in so far as he lives his own life." x This does not mean 
that he is an isolated unit, entirely self-contained, and able to grow 
in grace independently of any relations with his fellow men. The 
Christian life is essentially a life of union, of union with God and of 
union with one's neighbour. The Christian, whether confirmed or 
not, is bound by the paramount duties of charity, charity towards 
God and towards men ; indeed it is upon his observance of the first 
and greatest commandment, and of the second which is like to it, 
that his continuance in the state of grace and his progress in the 
spiritual life essentially depend. He has his duties of justice towards 
others, and in all his dealings with his fellow men he is bound by the 
code of the moral virtues. He has the duty, moreover, in virtue 
of his baptism, of guarding his supernatural life against hostile 
influences, conformably with the solemn injunction laid upon him 
when he was born to grace : " Receive this white garment and see 
thou keep it without stain unto the judgement seat of God." 

And yet he remains only a child in the supernatural order until The adult in 
the moment comes in which, so to speak, he takes the toga of public the ll f e f 
life in the Church. And this is the stage marked by the Sacrament grace 
of Confirmation. Ever since his baptism he has been a member of 
the Church, a son of God, a citizen of the City of God, and has 
enjoyed all the privileges of that status. But it is only in Confirma- 
tion that he receives the charge and the strength also to shoulder its 
responsibilities, to fulfil those obligations in the eyes of the world 
which rest upon him, not merely as a son of God, bound already by 
his Christian duties towards God and men, but as a mature and 
officially accredited citizen of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic 

A summary indication of the responsibility which Confirmation The duty of 
imposes is so important for the understanding of what follows that 
it must be given at once. It is described briefly by Christ himself 
in the words which he used to his Apostles before he ascended into 
heaven : " You shall be witnesses unto me." 2 It is the bounden 
duty of each spiritually mature and adult member of the catholic 
and apostolic Church to be a witness. The Church is the authentic 

1 Summa TheoL, III, Q, Ixxii, art. 5. 2 Acts i 8. 


witness to Jesus Christ on earth, and every responsible citizen of 
this City of God shares in that divinely appointed function of the 
Church, according to the place which he occupies in the organism 
of the Mystical Body of Christ. This is surely the deep significance 
of that gift of tongues which in the primitive Church, both on the 
day of Pentecost and on other occasions, gave external proof of the 
coming of the Holy Spirit. " The Holy Ghost descended upon 
them, and they spoke with tongues " ; as though to say, they were 
confirmed and they bore witness. And not only did they bear 
witness, but they bore witness in the tongues of every nation under 
heaven, because they were members of a Church not only apostolic 
but catholic also. As St Augustine aptly observes, in Jerusalem the 
universal mission of the Church had already begun, and the Pente- 
costal tongues were but a symbol to foreshadow the reality of a 
Church which would in fact, and not merely in figure, preach the 
gospel throughout the world. And if the Mystical Body of Christ 
is a witness, he argues, then every member of it is a witness too. 
" I, too," he exclaims, " I, too, speak with the tongues of all nations. 
Am I not in the Body of Christ, am I not in the Church of Christ ? 
If the Body of Christ speaks with the tongues of all nations, then the 
tongues of all nations are mine." 1 

Such is the glorious task to which Confirmation calls the Christian 
and for which it endows him. Already truly a member of the Church, 
he now becomes a spokesman of the Church, of the Church who, 
" like a standard set up unto the nations, calls to herself those who 
have not yet believed, and at the same time gives assurance to her 
own children that the faith which they profess reposes on the firmest 
of foundations." 2 Proudly conscious of his citizenship, he testifies 
to the world that he is indeed a follower of Christ and an upholder 
of his faith, ready if need be to die as a soldier in its defence. In 
Baptism the life of grace appears as a white garment to be kept pure 
and unspotted from the stains of the world ; in Confirmation the 
faith is raised aloft as a flying banner, under which we march as 
" strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ." 
The Sacra- Confirmation is called pre-eminently the Sacrament of the Holy 
mem of the Ghost. And it is fitting that to this Divine Person, in whom the 
Holy Spirit etema j proc essions of the Godhead find their culmination, we should 
attribute in a particular way the seal of sanctification which sets 
the finishing touch of maturity to the making of the Christian. 
This " appropriation " 3 reflects the words of Christ himself, who 
consistently assigns this perfective function to the Holy Spirit whom 
he would send, and it finds its firm support in the Acts of the Apostles, 
where this complement of Baptism is commonly called " the gift of 
the Spirit " or " the coming of the Holy Ghost." 

1 Enarr. in psalm- cxlvii 19. 

2 Vatican Council, Defid. cath. t cap. 3. 

3 For the meaning of this term, see Essay iv, The Blessed Trinity, p. 137. 


It may be useful, however (though not necessary to those who 
have studied earlier essays in this work), 1 to observe that the 
confirmed are not receiving the Holy Spirit for the first time. 
Wherever there is an outpouring of sanctifying grace there is the 
mysterious presence of the Trinity in the soul, and an invisible 
mission of the Son and the Holy Ghost. Already in Baptism the 
three divine Persons have taken up their abode in the soul, already 
the Holy Ghost dwells therein as in his temple. Consequently, 
if Confirmation is called the Sacrament of the Holy Spirit par ex- 
cellence it must be because the peculiar effect of this sacrament 
to create official witnesses to God's truth is one which is in a special 
way associated with the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. And 
that this is indeed the case it must now be our object to show. 


IN the Nicene Creed the Church professes her belief in the Holy 4C Qui locutus 
Ghost " who spoke through the prophets " (qui locutus est per pro- estperpro- 
phetas) ; and if by prophets we understand, as we should, not merely etas 
those who foretell future events but all those who deliver God's 
message to men, who bear witness to divine truth, we shall see that 
there is a close connection between this article of the Creed and the 
Sacrament of Confirmation. 

This special function of the Holy Spirit is revealed to us already j the pro- 
in the Old Testament. We are told how the Spirit rested upon theP hcts of old 
seventy elders so that they prophesied ; 2 Samuel assures Saul, the 
king of Israel, that the Spirit of the Lord will come upon him and 
he will prophesy ; 3 and it is to the same Spirit that Micheas attri- 
butes the power in which he speaks. " I am filled with strength/* 
he says, thanks to " the Spirit of God." 4 And we are even given 
an indication that the time will come when the Spirit of testimony 
will no longer be the privilege of a favoured few, but will be granted 
to all. " It shall come to pass after this," the prophet Joel proclaims 
in God's name, " that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and 
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." 5 

But as the moment approaches which the Scriptures call the in the im- 
fulness of time, when the promises of the Old Testament are at la 
to be fulfilled, and when God, having in times past spoken to men ^ 
by the prophets, is about to speak to them by his own Son, 6 then the 
Spirit of testimony becomes more and more active and is poured 
out in special abundance upon the immediate heralds of the Messias. 
The opening chapters of St Luke's Gospel tell us the story of this 
busy activity of the Holy Spirit in all those who are associated with 
the infancy of the divine Redeemer. The same Spirit who comes 

1 See Essay v, The Holy Ghost, pp. 161 ff. 2 Numbers xi 25. 

3 i Kings x 6-10. 4 Micheas in 8. 

5 Joel ii 28 ; cf. Essay v, p. 144. 6 C/. Heb. i i. 


upon Our Lady to operate in her the miraculous conception of the 
Son of God, 1 fills the heart of Elizabeth so that she bears testimony 
to Mary as the Mother of her Lord and utters those inspired words v 
" Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy 
womb/' with which the Church still salutes the Mother of God. 2 
The same Spirit fills the soul of the Precursor, so that he leaps in 
the womb of his mother to bear witness to Mary's unborn Child. 3 
Zachary is moved by the Holy Ghost to chant his canticle in praise 
of the coming Saviour ; 4 and it is under the same inspiration that 
Simeon greets the Redeemer who is to be for the fall and the re- 
surrection of many in Israel, and that in prophecy he associates 
Mary with the redemptive sufferings of her Son. 5 
In the But it is in Jesus himself, the true Christ, anointed by God with 

Saviour the oil of gladness (i.e. with the Holy Spirit) beyond his fellows, 6 in 
Jesus, who came into the world that he might give testimony to the 
truth, 7 that the Spirit of testimony pre-eminently exerts his power. 
From the moment in which the Son of God became incarnate in his 
Virgin Mother's womb, the Holy Spirit with all the plenitude of 
his supernatural gifts and graces took up his abode in the most holy 
soul of Christ, and to that fulness of grace and truth, which was the 
rightful heritage of the Word Incarnate, nothing could be added. 
If he is said to have grown in grace it is only because the hidden 
treasures of his soul became more and more manifest as men came to 
know him for what he was. And so, when the time came at which 
he must be shown forth before men as the Son of God, in complete 
possession of all the secrets of the Father and charged with the 
mission of revealing them to mankind, a special manifestation took 
place. After he had been baptised by John in the Jordan " the heaven 
opened and the Holy Ghost descended in bodily shape, as a dove, 
upon him. And a voice came from heaven : Thou art my beloved 
Son." 8 It was the Spirit of testimony openly displaying himself 
in the King of the prophets. His work of bearing witness to the 
truth was about to begin. 

Jesus anointed The deep significance of this visible manifestation of the Spirit at 
to preach the the beginning of Our Lord's public life did not escape the inspired 
gospe vision of St Peter, who ascribes to the assistance of the Holy Spirit 

the power with which Jesus fulfilled his mission of preaching. " You 
know the word," he said at Caesarea after the conversion of Cornelius, 
" which hath been published through all Judea ; for it began from 
Galilee after the baptism which John preached : how God anointed 
Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power." 9 And lest 
we should have any doubt that it is indeed the Spirit of testimony 
who speaks also in Jesus, we have his own words to the people of 
Nazareth : " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," he proclaims, 

1 Luke i 35. 2 Luke i 41-42. a Luke i 44. 

* Luke i 67. 6 Luke ii 25-35. a Heb. 19; cf. Ps. xliv. 

7 John xviii 37. 8 Luke iii 21-22. 9 Acts x 37-38. 


quoting the words of the prophet Isalas ; " for he hath anointed 
me to preach the Gospel." l No wonder that the Fathers have seen 
in that striking scene enacted by the river Jordan a prefigurement of 
the Christian sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. 

For the mission of preaching the Gospel which Christ had re~ The Apostles 
ceived from his Father was not to be completed with his earthly life. s ^ 
His Apostles were to continue the work : " As the Father hath sent ^ 
me, so I also send you . . . going teach ye all nations." 2 The task 
of bearing witness to the truth had cost the Saviour his Passion and 
Death, and only the power of the Spirit had sustained him against 
the torrent of hatred which had greeted his message. It was not 
to be an easy task for the Apostles either. " The disciple/' he warned 
them, " is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is 
enough for the disciple that he be as his master and the servant as his 
lord. If they have called the goodrnan of the house Beelzebub, 
how much more them of his household ? ' J 3 Their mission would not 
be one in which they would be welcomed with open arms : " Behold 
I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Beware of men ; for 
they will deliver you up in councils and they will scourge you in 
their synagogues. And you shall be brought before governors and 
kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles." 4 

The Apostles were to be under no illusions, therefore ; they must Promise of 
be prepared to meet the same opposition as their Master. But were 
they to undertake their mission unaided ? Was that Spirit of testi- 
mony who had spoken through the prophets of old, through Zachary, 
Elizabeth, the Baptist, Simeon, who had anointed Jesus himself for 
the preaching of the Gospel, was this Spirit to be withheld from 
them ? Our Lord reassures them immediately. " When they shall 
deliver you up/' he tells them, " take no thought how or what to 
speak ; for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. For 
it is not you that speak but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh 
in you/' 5 

Their need of the Spirit is shown clearly when we consider their Thtir need of 
conduct before they received it. They did not lack faith in their the spirit 
Master, nor loving devotion to him ; what they needed was the 
courage to proclaim their faith and loyalty in the face of scornful 
opposition. The behaviour of Peter may be taken as typical of them 
all. He had so boldly professed his faith at Caesarea when there were 
no enemies of Christ at hand ; 6 together with the other Apostles he 
had clung to his Master when so many of the other disciples " went 
back and walked no more with him " ; 7 in the enthusiasm of his 
loyalty he had declared : " Although all shall be scandalised in thee, 
I will never be scandalised. . . . Yea, though I should die with thee, 
I will not deny thee." 8 But none knew better than the Master 

1 Luke iv 18. 2 John xx 21 with Matt, xxviii 19. 

* Matt, x 24-25. * Matt, x 16-18. 5 Matt, x 19-20. 

6 Matt, xvi 16. 7 John vi 67-70. 8 Matt, xxvi 33, 35. 

They are 
warned to 
await the 

The promise 
fulfilled at 

and inner 
working of 
the Spirit 


himself how frail were such resolutions when unconfirmed by the 
Spirit of testimony, and therefore we must surely read a divine 
tenderness in the words of warning which he addressed to Peter : 
" Amen I say to thee that in this night before the cock crow thou 
wilt deny me thrice." 1 As the event proved, it needed only the 
taunting of a serving maid and the questioning of a few casual by- 
standers to overwhelm a courage which was as yet not firmly estab- 
lished in the Spirit. 2 

So well did Jesus know their weakness that, even after he had 
risen from the dead and so afforded them ocular proof of his glorious 
triumph, he still warns them that they must not attempt to begin 
their mission of bearing witness until they have received the needful 
strengthening of the Spirit. In his last discourse before ascending 
into heaven he shows them that they have now every ground for 
firm faith in him : " Thus it is written," he says, ",and thus it be- 
hoved Christ to suffer and to rise again from the dead the third day ; 
and that penance and remission of sins should be preached in his 
name unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are wit- 
nesses of these things. " But then, as though bidding them beware 
of a self-reliance which had already betrayed them, he adds : "I 
send the promised one from my Father upon you ; but stay you in 
the city till you be endued with power from on high" 3 And again, 
as St Luke tells us more clearly in the Acts of the Apostles, " He 
commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but 
should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard 
(saith he) by my mouth. . . . You shall receive the power of 
the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto 
me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the utter- 
most part of the earth." 4 

On the day of Pentecost Our Lord's promise was fulfilled : 
" When the days of Pentecost were accomplished, they were all 
together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from 
heaven, as of a mighty wind coming ; and it filled the whole house 
where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues, 
as it were of fire, and it sftt upon every one of them. And they were 
all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers 
tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak." 5 

It is important both in this, the first instance of the giving of the 
Holy Ghost in the Christian dispensation, and in others which are 
related by St Luke, to distinguish between what is incidental and 
what is essential in the effects of his outpouring ; and if, in what 
precedes, we appear to have stressed unduly the terms in which the 
Spirit was promised by Christ and the need in which the Apostles 
stood of his strengthening grace, it has only been in order that we 
may now more clearly perceive wherein lies the essential fulfilment 

1 Matt, xxvi 34. 
8 Luke xxiv 46-49. 

L, 69-75- 
4 Acts i 4, 8. 

5 Acts ii 1-4. 


of the promise. We must not allow ourselves to be blinded to the 
interior workings of the Spirit by undue attention to his outward 
manifestations. These have their importance, and for St Luke 
whose chief object is to explain the rapid spread of the Christian 
Church, they have a very great importance indeed. That the first 
communication of this divine power which was to renovate the world 
should be accompanied by unmistakable proofs of its presence, that 
the invisible Spirit should make himself seen in the brightness of fire, 
heard in the sound of a mighty wind, felt in the shaking of the 
earth ; x that the Apostles themselves, and also the first members 
of the infant Church, should exhibit to the world outward and mani- 
fest signs (the gift of tongues, the working of wonders, the casting 
out of devils) 2 as proofs of the Spirit that worked within them 
all this appears natural and appropriate when we remember that 
Pentecost is not only the " Confirmation " of the Apostles but also 
the first solemn promulgation of the Christian Church ; and it would 
be strange if these phenomena did not assume great prominence in 
the story. 

But if we were to see, as some have been led to see, in these Essential 
visible portents the sole or the chief effect of the gift of the Spirit, f^j 
we should be forgetting the principal purpose for which that gift t ^ e spirit 
was promised. The Spirit whom Christ had promised to send from 
the Father was to supply in them what had hitherto been so con- 
spicuously lacking, namely, the courage to bear witness to Christ ; 
if they were to be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence, 
if they were to receive his power coming upon them, if they were to 
be endued with power from on high, if they were to postpone the 
inauguration of their mission until they had received that power, 
it was in order that they might be enabled thereby " to speak the 
word of God with confidence." 3 

Therefore the essential working of the Spirit of testimony is 
within the hearts of the Apostles, and its outward showing is to be 
seen not in the working of miracles or the speaking with tongues, 
but in the new courage with which they now proclaim their message 
and which presents so marvellous a contrast with their former 
timidity. Peter, who not long before had denied his Lord at the word 
of a serving wench, now lifts up his voice before the whole people 
of Jerusalem, telling them how God had raised Jesus from the dead, 
" whereof all we are witnesses." 4 " Let all the house of Israel 
know most certainly/' he cries, " that God hath made this same Jesus 
whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ." 5 Apprehended 
by the officers of the temple, he boldly preaches Jesus to the Jewish 
authorities ; " filled with the Holy Ghost," he proclaims the power 
of Jesus of Nazareth whom they had put to death ; 6 charged by 

1 Acts Iv 31. 

2 Qf. Acts viii 15-18 ; xix 2-6 ; iv 30-31 ; vi 5-8 ; viii 7. 

3 Actsiv 31. * Acts 11 32. 

5 Ibid., 36. ' Acts iv i-io. 


them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus, he joins with 
the other Apostles in making that solemn declaration which has been 
the motto of the Christian martyrs ever since : " We ought to obey 
God rather than men." 1 The power of the Spirit of testimony 
makes itself felt so irresistibly within them that they are constrained 
to bear witness to God's truth : " We cannot but speak the things 
which we have seen and heard. " * And with their shoulders still 
smarting from the scourges, they come forth from the council " re- 
joicing that they are counted worthy to suffer reproach for the name 
of Jesus." 3 

Could the promise of Christ have been more manifestly fulfilled ? 
" They will scourge you in their synagogues. . . . But when they 
shall deliver you up it shall be given to you in that hour what to speak. 
For it is not you that speak but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh 
in you." 

All the faith- But the burden of witness lies not only upon the chosen twelve ; 
ful must bear it lies upon the faithful also, all of whom are called, each in his own 
zvitnes*?* ^ wa y> to k ear witness to the faith of Jesus Christ. It was not only to 
the Apostles but to all his followers that Jesus said : " Everyone that 
shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father 
who is in heaven. But he that shall deny me before men, I will also 
deny him before my Father who is in heaven." 4 To preach the 
gospel by word of mouth will not be the task of everyone, but none 
is exempt from the obligation of so living that he may be recognised 
by the world for a disciple of Christ. " So let your light shine before 
men," he says, " that they may see your good works and glorify 
your Father who is in heaven." 5 

The task of And for the faithful too the task of bearing witness to Christ will 
toward 11 ^ e a ^ aT ^ oixe ' ^ ^^ Christian conduct brings upon them the 
hatred of a hostile world, this is only the price that must be paid by 
all the prophets, by all who give testimony to God's truth : " Blessed 
are ye when they shall revile you and persecute you and speak all 
that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake. Be glad and rejoice 
for your reward is very great in heaven ; for so they persecuted the 
prophets that were before you." 6 They will be hated and reproached 
and their name will be cast out as evil for Christ's sake. 7 St John 
tells the Christians of the first century not to wonder if the world 
hated them ; 8 he has in mind the words which Christ had intended 
for all believers : " If the world hate you, know that it hath hated 
me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love 
its own ; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen 
you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." 9 This is 
why the Prince of Peace himself had to proclaim that he came not 
to bring peace but the sword, and why he, who is the Author of 

1 Acts v 28-29. 2 Acts iv 20. 3 Acts v 40-41. 

4 Matt, x 32-33. 6 Matt, v 16. 6 Ibid. 1 1-12. 

7 Cf. Luke vi 22. 8 1 John iii 13. fl John xv 18-19. 


the commandment to honour father and mother, imposes upon his 
disciples one of the hardest tests of all : "He that loveth father or 
mother more than me is not worthy of me." 1 

But if every Christian must bear the burden of witness, we shall The Spirit 
expect also that for every Christian there will likewise be a share in P* 56 * to 

i * jc i n 1 i i % i t 1 f a u t^ 6 

the outpouring of the bpirit by which Apostles are strengthened IOT faithful 
their task. And so indeed it is. Christ promises that the Father 
" will give the good Spirit to them that ask him " ; 2 and it is of 
this same Spirit of fortitude that St John bids us understand the 
mysterious w r ords of Christ in the temple : " He that belie veth in 
me ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water/ 1 " Now 
this " (the evangelist explains), " he said of the Spirit which they 
should receive who believed in him ; for as yet the Spirit was not 
given, because Jesus was not yet glorified/ 7 3 The same reassurance is 
given to the early Christians by St Peter : " Dearly beloved/' he 
writes, " think not strange the burning heat which is to try you, 
as if some new thing happened to you. ... If you be reproached 
for the name of Christ you shall be blessed ; for the Spirit of glory, 
which is the Spirit of God, resteth upon you." 4 And it is of this 
universal promise that he understands the prophecy of Joel when he 
preached to the people of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost ; " It 
shall come to pass ... I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh. " 
To receive this precious gift they need not belong to the chosen 
twelve. " Do penance," he tells them, " and be baptised every one 
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins. 
And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise 
is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever 
the Lord our God shall call." 5 

Already in the primitive Church we begin to see the promise The Spiru 
fulfilled. Even the first Pentecostal outpouring, it would a PP ea 
was not reserved to the Apostles alone. St Luke's account leads oney 
to suppose that, besides Mary the Mother of Jesus and the Apostles, 
the whole of the little Christian community (about one hundred and 
twenty souls) were present in that upper room when the Holy Ghost 
" came upon every one of them, and they were all filled with the Holy 
Ghost." 6 Thereafter the activity of the Holy Spirit is widespread 
throughout the infant Church. " We are witnesses," exclaims St 
Peter, " and so is the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to all that 
obey him." 7 A new outpouring fills the faithful when the Jewish 
authorities begin their persecution, "and they speak the word of 
God with confidence " ; 8 the seven deacons are filled with the Holy 
Ghost, 9 and under his inspiration Stephen, first fruits of the Spirit 
of Christian martyrdom, confounds the Jews and with his dying 

1 Matt. 3? 34-37. 2 Luke xi 13. 3 John vii 38-39- 

4 i Peter iv 12, 14 (according to the Greek text). 

5 Acts ii 16, 38. 6 Acts i 13-15 ; ii 3-4. 

7 Acts v 32. 8 Actsiv3i. fl Acts vi 3. 


breath bears witness to Jesus whom he sees standing at the right hand 
of God. 1 Under the guidance of the same Spirit Philip the deacon 
evangelises the Samaritans, 2 upon whom the Apostles Peter and John 
subsequently confer the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands ; 3 
Paul is no sooner converted than he is filled with the Spirit ; 4 
Cornelius, in whose person the Gentiles are called to the Church, 
receives the Holy Ghost even before he is baptised ; 5 the same Spirit 
is poured out upon all the converts from paganism ; 6 and the dis- 
ciples of Ephesus, as soon as they have been baptised in the name of 
the Lord Jesus, also receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of the 
hands of St Paul. 7 

What Joel had foretold was indeed coming to pass : the Holy 
Spirit who had spoken by the prophets of old, who had enlightened 
the immediate forerunners of the Redeemer, who had anointed Jesus 
himself for the preaching of the Gospel, who had been given with 
overwhelming evidence to the Apostles and the first disciples on the 
day of Pentecost this same Spirit of testimony was being poured 
out " upon all flesh." 

tion ante 




A Sacrament THE information already gleaned from the Scriptures, combined with 
ofConfirma- a consideration of the general plan by which Christ has provided 

twn ante- . . ,-,, 11111 111 

for the needs of his Church, would lead us to expect that he has 
instituted a Sacrament of Confirmation. Supernatural gifts are by 
their very definition entirely gratuitous ; man has no claim to them 
and God is under no absolute obligation to bestow them. Still 
less is the Author of grace, should he see fit to bestow such gifts, 
in any way restricted as to the means he may choose for communi- 
cating them. Nevertheless the Christian dispensation of the super- 
natural is marked by a regular and harmonious arrangement which 
presents many analogies with the natural order, for both nature and 
supernature are equally the work of that Wisdom which " reaches 
from end to end mightily and orders all things sweetly. " 8 We are 
thus often able in some measure, by means of what theologians call 
the analogy of faith, to surmise in advance what the divine dispositions 
are likely to be. 

Now among the graces given to men are some which we may 
call particular graces : that is to say, supernatural aids rendered 
ixecessary by particular circumstances which are not the common 
lot of all Christians and are not involved in the ordinary life of the 
Church. That such graces will never be lacking to those who need 
them we may be certain ; but we should not expect God to have 

The sacra- 

1 Acts vi 5, 10 ; vii 55. 
3 Acts viii 14-17, 

6 Acts x 44. 

7 Acts xix 1-7. 

2 Acts viii. 

4 Acts ix 17. 

Acts x 45, 47 ; xi 15, 17 ; xv 7-9. 

8 Wisdom viii i. 


established permanent and regular channels for their bestowal. There 
are other graces, on the contrary, which we may call normal ; normal 
because they form part of the usual equipment of the Christian, or 
are designed to meet common emergencies, or are required for the 
government and administration of the Church. For such needs 
God has provided by the institution of the sacraments : birth, 
nourishment, healing, wedlock, government and social welfare, all 
these ordinary features of our natural life have their counterpart in 
the supernatural economy, and the respective graces are available in 
a marvellously devised sacramental system. 1 It would therefore be 
surprising if this divinely established scheme did not include a sacra- 
ment for the bestowal of that grace, promised to all Christians, which 
enables them to confess their divine Master before men. 

Let us examine our earliest sources, then, to see whether there 
existed in the primitive Church a rite or ceremony designed for the 
normal bestowal of what we have come to call, for convenience sake, 
the Spirit of testimony. I say, for its normal bestowal, because only 
such a rite can be regarded as truly sacramental, that is, as per- 
manently instituted by Christ for the sanctification of the faithful. 

But when we turn to the Acts of the Apostles, our chief inspired Abnormal 
source of information about the primitive Christian community, we conditions of 
are immediately confronted with a difficulty. It is the difficulty of%l r c z twe 
finding traces of the normal in the midst of conditions which are 
very far from normal indeed. Allusion has already been made to 
the emphasis which is laid upon the extraordinary in St Luke's 
narrative, an emphasis which is explained by the purpose of his 
writing. Primarily interested as he is in describing the overwhelming 
impact of the divine Spirit upon the world, it is no wonder that he 
writes chiefly of those challenging manifestations whereby the Spirit 
of testimony was compelling the attention of men to the first begin- 
nings of Christianity, and thus makes little mention of the regular 
pastoral work of the Church which, for the rest, had scarcely yet 
begun. A study of the Acts accordingly reveals two types of " Con- 
firmation " ; the extraordinary or supra-sacramental, which appears 
with greater prominence, and the normal or sacramental, of which 
the indications are casual and rare. 

To the first category belongs certainly the descent of the Holy Supra-sacra- 
Ghost on the day of Pentecost ; the occasion called for an over- mental Con- 
whelmingly manifest and direct intervention of divine power, e^'p^tte- 
Another extraordinary communication of the Spirit is that which cost ; the 
was made to Cornelius and his companions. Here, too, was a crisis c " se f 

A 1 J t A. ^OTitBilUS 

demanding abnormal measures. A new stage in the development 
of the Church (the admission of the Gentiles) was about to begin, 
and it had required a vision from God to overcome St Peter's hesita- 
tion in embarking on it. And so, while he is still instructing Cornelius 
and his company, and before he has baptised them, the Spirit of 

1 See Essay xxi, The Sacramental System, pp. 743-744 J tf- PP- 73-74- 


testimony intervenes with a special portent to endorse his action. 
" While Peter was yet speaking, the Holy Ghost fell upon ^ all them 
that heard the word. And the faithful of the circumcision, who 
came with Peter, were astonished for that the grace of the Holy 
Ghost was poured out upon the Gentiles also. For they heard 
them speaking with tongues and magnifying God." 1 ^ Neither 
Peter nor the converts from Judaism who were with him could 
have any further doubt. " Can any man forbid water/' he exclaims 
to his companions, " that these should not be baptised, who have 
received the Holy Ghost as well as we ? " 2 And when, on returning 
to Jerusalem, he is required to justify his extraordinary ^ action to 
those " of the circumcision/' he appeals again and again to this 
manifest sign of the divine approval. 3 

The normal And now here, to compare, and also in some measure to contrast, 
procedure : with these extraordinary outpourings of the Spirit, are two instances 
the Samari- j n W y c j 1 t he same grace is conveyed by what has every appearance 
tans of being a normal sacramental rite. The first is the Confirmation 

of the Samaritans. Among the providential results of the persecu- 
tion of the Church at Jerusalem was the dispersal of many members 
of the new community among the neighbouring districts, with the 
consequent preaching of the Gospel over a wider field. Philip the 
deacon found scope for his zeal in the province of Samaria, where 
he made many converts to whom he administered the Sacrament of 
Baptism. St Luke thus relates how they received also the Sacrament 
of Confirmation: "When the Apostles who were in Jerusalem ' s 
(where they had stayed despite the persecution) " had heard that 
Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter 
and John. Who, when they were come, prayed for them that they 
might receive the Holy Ghost. For he was not as yet come upon 
any of them, but they were only baptised in the name of the Lord 
Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received 
the Holy Ghost." 4 

A comment The incident bears all the marks of a normal procedure ; it is 
f St . just as though a modern bishop, being informed that a great number 

Cypnan ^ converts had been received into the Church in one of the parishes 
of his diocese, immediately sets out (with his auxiliary) to make a 
visitation and to confirm them. Already, some seventeen centuries 
ago, St Cyprian has remarked upon the similarity between this 
incident and the ordinary administration of a diocese in third-century 
Africa : " Exactly the same thing happens with us to-day/' he writes ; 
" those who have been baptised in the Church are presented to the 
bishops of the Church so that by our prayer and the imposition, of 
our hands they may receive the Holy Spirit/' 5 

Simon Magus Curiously enough Simon Magus, who was an admiring witness 
a fG the f f these scenes in Samaria, has unwittingly and providentially 

the te * Acts x. 2 Acts x 47. 3 Acts xi 15, 17 ; xv 7-9, 

4 Acts viii 1-17, * Ep. 73. 


afforded us a valuable testimony to the sacramental efficacy of the 
Imposition of hands : "' When Simon saw (St Luke tells us) that by 
the imposition of the hands of the Apostles the Holy Ghost was given, 
he offered them money saying : Give me also this power, that 
on whomsoever I shall lay my hands he may receive the Holy 
Ghost," ! 

The second description of the ordinary method of conferring the The disciples 
Holy Ghost occurs in connection with a group of twelve believers at E P hesus 
whom St Paul found at Ephesus. Here is St Luke's account of the 
incident : "It came to pass that Paul . . . came to Ephesus and 
found certain disciples ; and he said to them : Have you received 
the Holy Ghost since you believed ? But they said to him : We 
have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. And he 
said : In what then were you baptised ? Who said : In John's 
baptism. Then Paul said : John baptised the people with the bap- 
tism of penance, saying that they should believe in him who was to 
come after him, that is to say, in Jesus. Having heard these things, 
they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul 
had imposed his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came down 
upon them ; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied/' 2 

Taking it for granted that the Ephesians in question had already 
received Christian baptism, 3 the Apostle asks whether they have been 
confirmed ; clearly he expected that they would have been, for the 
giving of the Holy Ghost was the normal complement of the Christian 
rite. No, they had not received the Holy Ghost ; they had not 
even heard of his existence. St Paul's surprise disappears, however, 
as soon as he learns that they had been baptised only with, John's 
baptism, which was not followed by the rite of conferring the Spirit. 
He thereupon gives them Christian baptism, and once more we are 
told of the ordinary ceremony which follows : he imposed hands 
upon them and they received the Holy Ghost. 

But, whether ordinarily or extraordinarily bestowed, the gift is Always e$- 

always the same. The Prince of the Apostles is himself our witness 3e ^ tl f ll 2 the 
11 -N i- i t i i TT i same grace 

that the grace given to Cornelius and his companions when the Holy 
Spirit came upon them, was exactly the same grace as that which 
the Apostles and the first disciples had received on the day of Pente- 
cost : " He gave them the Holy Ghost as to us," he says, " and put 
no difference between us and them. ... He gave them the same 
grace as to us." 4 Moreover, this grace, given in common both to 
Apostles and to converts from paganism, is in its turn the same grace 
as that which the Apostles had power to convey by the imposition 
of hands. Of this St Peter again gives us the proof, for on the very 

1 Acts viii 1 8. a Acts xix 2-7. 

8 The phrase " since ye believed " means *' since you received Christian 
baptism " ; cf. Rom. xiii n : " Now our salvation is nearer than when we 
believed," i.e. than at the time of our baptism. 

4 Acts xv 7-9 ; xi 15-17 ; cf. above, pp. 813-814. 

The grace of 
the Spirit 
distinct from 
the grace of 

tary to the 
grace of 


day of Pentecost he promises to the people of Jerusalem that, if only 
they will do penance and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, 
they will receive that gift of the Holy Ghost of which they had just 
witnessed the stupendous effects. 1 The circumstances of its be- 
stowal might be different, the outward phenomena accompanying 
it might vary, such phenomena might even be completely absent, 
but the essential effect is identical in all : an outpouring of the Spirit 
of testimony, enabling those who received it to " speak the word of 
God with confidence/' 2 

But if Baptism must be received before the gift of the Spirit can 
be granted, it is not by Baptism itself that the gift is conferred. This 
is made plain in St Luke's account of the Confirmation of the Samari- 
tan disciples. " The Holy Ghost," he writes, " was not as yet come 
down upon any of them, but they were only baptised in the name of 
the Lord Jesus." The same is seen in the case of the Ephesians 
who received the Spirit, not immediately upon being baptised, but 
only after Paul had laid his hands upon them. 3 We may draw the 
same conclusion, that the grace of the Spirit is distinct from the grace 
of Baptism, if we consider the Confirmation of the Apostles them- 
selves. For it cannot be doubted that these, already before Pente- 
cost, had received the ordinary effects of Baptism, if not the sacrament 
of Baptism itself. Whatever view be held as to the moment in which 
Baptism was instituted by Our Lord whether, as some maintain, 
at the time of his conversation with Nicodemus, or when he was 
baptised in the Jordan, or even, as a few theologians have held, when, 
after his Resurrection, he entrusted to his Apostles the commission 
of baptising and preaching the Gospel it is certain that already at 
the Last Supper the Apostles were cleansed from original sin and 
endowed at least with the equivalent of the baptismal character when 
they received the Sacrament of Holy Order. 

But the two graces, though so evidently distinct from each other, 
are shown throughout the Acts of the Apostles to be most closely 
associated. The words of St Peter to the people of Jerusalem, " Be 
baptised every one of you . . . and you shall receive the gift of the 
Holy Ghost " ; the prompt action taken at Jerusalem to ensure that 
the Samaritans should quickly receive the Holy Spirit after they had 
been baptised ; the surprise of St Paul at the unconfirmed condition 
of the twelve Ephesians whom he supposed already to have received 
Christian baptism ; and even the solicitude of St Peter to baptise 
Cornelius and his companions as soon as possible after they had 
already (by a unique inversion of the normal order) received the Holy 
Spirit all this is evident proof that the one grace is normally called 
for by the other. It is proof in fact since the exceptional case of 
Cornelius may be legitimately disregarded that the gift of the Spirit 
is the ordinary complement of the Sacrament of Baptism. 

1 C/. Acts ii 38. 2 Acts \v 31. 

8 Cf. Acts viii 1 6 ; xix 5, 6. 


So close, indeed, is the connection which appears in St Luke's The special 
narrative between Baptism and the gift of the Spirit, that some have outlook of 
been led to suppose that this gift is nothing else than the effect of St Luke 
Baptism itself. The above considerations show that this is an error. 
But it is perhaps allowable to suggest that in the eyes of the author 
of the Acts the gift of the Spirit is so important, that the previous 
grace of Baptism appears in his account as little more than a pre- 
liminary to the gift which is its normal complement and crown. 
With an outlook which is primarily missionary and apostolic, his 
thought is not arrested to consider the sublime privileges which 
Baptism confers divine sonship, the indwelling of the Trinity, 
heirship to eternal life in a word, all those consoling aspects of 
justification upon which St Paul enlarges in his epistles. Rather he 
hurries on to the thought of the splendid mission which falls to every 
member of the catholic and apostolic Church, and therefore to that 
gift of the Spirit which makes the Christian a valiant witness of the 
faith and a bearer of the good news of salvation to those who have not 
yet received it. 

Finally, this grace of the Spirit, distinct from the grace of Baptism The grace of 
and complementary to it, is exhibited in the Acts of the Apostles as the Spirit 
being normally communicated by a special rite, employed by a special 
minister. The explicit and clear accounts of the Confirmation of the and by a 
Samaritans and of the Ephesians leave us in no doubt as to the rite 
employed : it is the imposition of hands. Moreover, in both these 
instances, the only two which we can with certainty consider as 
representing the normal procedure, the ministers are Apostles. 
Philip the deacon, who had converted and baptised the Samaritans, 
had apparently not been qualified to confirm them ; it is difficult to 
understand otherwise, especially when we consider the close con- 
nection between Baptism and its complement, why he should not 
have done so. 1 In the absence of any certain evidence to the con- 
trary we are therefore justified in concluding that the ordinary 
minister of this rite, not only de facto but also de jure, was an 
Apostle. 2 

Thus within a year of the day of Pentecost we find already existing 
in the Church a special rite, distinct from that of Baptism, the ad- 
ministration of which appears to be reserved to the Apostles, and whose 
effect, also distinct from that of Baptism, is a special outpouring of 
the Spirit enabling the recipient to be a confident witness of the faith 
of Jesus Christ. 

This is the Sacrament of Confirmation. 

1 See Acts viii 12, 1 6. 2 But see below, p. 831 and n. 5. 



Confirmation THE precious benefits conferred by the Sacrament of Confirmation 
and martyr- we re fully seen during the first three centuries of the Christian era ; 
dom for this was pre-eminently the period of martyrdom, that Is i say, 

the period of witness. To suffer and die for the name of Christ is 
the sovereign profession of faith, it is that most perfect testimony 
which Christ foretold would be asked of his followers. It Is the 
highest testimony that can be rendered to Christ both as being the 
supreme proof of devotion to his cause, 1 and also as being the most 
perfect reproduction of the suffering and dying Christ which the 
Christian can exhibit in himself. 2 The Apostles had led the way, 
setting the seal of their own blood upon their heroic witness, and that 
same Spirit of testimony which fortified them in their own ^ ordeal, 
and which they had communicated to others by the imposition of 
hands, is passed on by the Sacrament to others In turn, raising up a 
numberless band of martyrs throughout the world : not only among 
bishops and priests, but also among men and women of the laity, 
of every condition aad degree, and even among children of the 
tenderest age until the very earth became saturated with that 
martyrs' blood which, in the words of Tertullian, is the seed of the 

The rudi- This fact, that the witness of the Church In the first three cen- 

mentary age turies of her existence is written so large in the blood of her children, 
toltfoofogy* n&J account to some extent for the relative scantiness of other con- 
temporary records. It is further to be borne in mind, when search- 
ing for early allusions to the sacraments, that these are primarily 
things to be administered and received, not to be talked or written 
about ; and that, consequently, such written records as we possess 
of this period are found to deal, not so much with the rites and 
ceremonies of the Church with which the faithful might be presumed 
to be familiar through their daily practice, as rather with those par- 
ticular doctrines of the faith which the rise of heresy or the conditions 
of the time brought into prominence. Add to this the fact that the 
precise theological language of to-day (including even such common 
words as " sacrament " and " confirmation " in the modern con- 
notation) was only just beginning to be formed, and it will be appre- 
ciated that the sparse and often merely incidental allusions to the 
sacraments which we do find in early writings lack that fulness and 
lucidity to which our own books of instruction have accustomed us, 
and that, in, consequence, the task which faces the student of early 
sacramentary theology is by no means an easy one. 

Two distinct It will be somewhat simplified in the present instance, however, 

questions [f we carefully distinguish, and try to answer separately, what are 

really two quite different questions. It is one thing to ask whether 

the Church has consistently, from the earliest times of which we have 

1 John xv 13. 

2 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixvi, art. ir. 


sufficient record, observed a special sacramental rite, recognisably 
distinct from Baptism and complementary to it, and conceived as 
bestowing a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is simply 
to ask whether the Church has always administered the Sacrament 
of Confirmation. But it is another thing to ask whether that sacra- 
mental rite has remained at all times and in all places entirely un- 
altered. This is to ask what constituted the essence of the Sacrament 
of Confirmation during the early centuries of the Church. The first 
question is easy, and all theologians are agreed upon the answer to 
be given to it. The second question is very complicated and difficult, 
and there is still much discussion among theologians as to its solution. 
Let us consider the easy question first. 

Among the earliest descriptions we possess of what must cer- The Sacra- 
tainly be recognised as the Sacrament of Confirmation is one which T ^ ent f 
occurs, significantly enough, not in a work devoted to the study 
this sacrament, but in a small treatise written by Tertullian about 
the year 200 in refutation of a certain woman who rejected the 
Sacrament of Baptism. We cannot reproduce it here in full ; Ter- 
tullian's description of the rite of Christian initiation, as practised 
in Africa at the end of the second century, is interspersed with alle- 
gories and scriptural allusions which are not strictly relevant to our 
purpose. But enough of it must be cited to show the relation, and 
the distinction, between Baptism itself and the rite of Confirma- 
tion which immediately succeeds it ; enough also to provide some 
material which will be of use when we come to deal with our second 

Through Baptism, he writes, " man receives anew that Spirit of 
God which he had first received when God breathed upon him, 
but had afterwards lost through sin. Not that we obtain the Holy 
Spirit in the waters (of Baptism), but being cleansed ... in the 
water we are made ready for the Holy Spirit. . . . Thereafter, when 
we have come forth from the font, we are anointed thoroughly with 
a blessed unguent ; this in accordance with the ancient practice, 
whereby men were anointed unto the priesthood from that very same 
horn from which Aaron was anointed by Moses. Since Christ takes 
his name from chrism, i.e. unguent, this unguent which gave the 
Lord his name has become spiritualised ; for he was anointed with 
the Spirit by God the Father, as we are told in the Acts (iv 27). . . . 
So on us likewise, though it is upon the flesh that the oil streams, it 
confers a spiritual benefit ; just as the physical act of Baptism, 
whereby we are immersed in the water, has the spiritual effect of 
delivering us from sin. After this, the hand is laid upon us invoking 
and inviting the Holy Spirit by the (prayer of) blessing. Human 
ingenuity can summon air (spiritum) into water, and by the applica- 
tion of hands thereon is able to animate the conjunction of the two 


with a spirit of clear sound. 1 Shall not God, then, also be able on 
his own instrument (i.e. man) to play the sublime melody of the 
Spirit through the medium of consecrated hands ? " 2 

Whatever be the significance of the rite of anointing upon which 
Tertullian comments at such length, it is impossible not to see in 
the words I have italicised a clear description of that same rite which 
is now familiar to us from our study of the Acts of the Apostles. 
" Peter and John . . . prayed for them that they might receive the 
Holy Ghost ... for they had only been baptised. . . . Then they 
laid hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost." A 
comparison of the words of Tertullian with those of St Luke leaves 
no doubt that both are referring to a rite additional to Baptism and 
distinct from it, a rite which conveys a grace of the Holy Ghost not 
conveyed by Baptism : the Holy Spirit, Tertullian tells us explicitly, 
is not obtained in the waters of Baptism ; but it is given by the 
imposition of hands. 

St Cyprian We have already quoted a passage from a letter of St Cyprian, 
Bishop of Carthage, written some fifty years later than the above, 
in which he tells us that it was still the custom in Africa to confer 
the gift of the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands, 3 just as it 
had been conferred upon the Samaritans by the Apostles Peter and 
John. Having occasion in another circumstance to refer to this 
sacrament, he writes : "It is not by the imposition of hands, when 
he receives the Holy Ghost, that a man is regenerated. He is re- 
generated in Baptism, in order that, being now born, he may receive 
the Holy Ghost. ... He cannot receive the Spirit without first 
existing to receive him. But the birth of Christians is in Baptism." 4 
Again the distinction is clearly made between two different rites, 
having two different effects : the Sacrament of Baptism which re- 
generates, and the sacrament which confers the Holy Spirit, and which 
is administered by the imposition of hands. It will be remarked also 
in this passage how St Cyprian, besides stressing the distinction 
between the two sacraments, points to the intimate connection 
between them. 

St Jerome It is interesting to compare with St Cyprian's description of 

bishops imposing hands upon those who had previously received 
only the Sacrament of Baptism, the following statement of St Jerome, 
made more than a hundred years later : " Know you not," he writes, 
" that it is the custom in all the churches that upon those who have 
been baptised hands should afterwards be imposed, that the Holy 
Spirit may thus be called down upon them ? Where is this written, 
you ask ? In the Acts of the Apostles. But even if there were no 
scriptural authority for it, the agreement of the whole world on this 
matter would have the force of a precept. ... It is also the custom 

1 Tertullian alludes to the hydraulic organ. 

2 De baptismo, cc. 5, 6, 7, 8. 

8 See p. 816. * Ep. 74. 


that, in the case of those who have been baptised by priests or 
deacons in districts far away from the greater cities, the bishop 
should go out and lay hands upon them to invoke the Holy Spirit 
upon them." * 

Turning now to the Church in the East, we find some interesting St Cyril of 
instructions on the Sacrament of Confirmation given by St Cyril 
Jerusalem (about the year 348) to his neophytes. " In the time of 
Moses, 5 ' he writes, " the Spirit was given by the imposition of hands ; 
St Peter also grants it by the imposition of hands ; and upon you 
also who are to be baptised this grace will be bestowed. But I do 
not tell you how ; for I do not want to anticipate the opportune 
time." 2 When he comes to describe the ceremony in which the 
Spirit is conferred, however, he says nothing about the imposition 
of hands ; he speaks only of an anointing with chrism : " To you, 
when you came up from the font of sacred water, an anointing was 
given, the antitype of that chrism with which Christ was anointed. 
. . . Christ, however, was not anointed by men with a physical oil 
or unguent ; the Father, in constituting him the Saviour of the whole 
world, anointed him with the Holy Spirit. . . . But you are anointed 
with a real unguent, and so become sharers and fellows with Christ. 
See that you do not regard this as a mere material and common 
unguent. For just as the bread of the Eucharist is no longer ordinary 
bread after the invocation of the Holy Spirit, but the Body of Christ, 
so too this holy unguent is no longer a mere common unguent after 
the invocation. It is the treasury of the gifts of Christ and the Holy 
Ghost, causing its effect by the presence of the divinity within it. 
It is smeared as a symbol upon your forehead and the other senses. 
But while the body is being anointed with the visible unguent, the 
soul is quickened by the holy and life-giving Spirit. ... It is a 
spiritual amulet for the body and a saving protection for the soul." 3 

It would appear then that in the East, at any rate in the fourth 
century, the most prominent feature of Confirmation was an anointing 
with chrism, for the context of Cyril's discourse makes it impossible 
to understand this anointing as anything else than the rite which 
confers the gift of the Spirit. The prevalence of this practice in the 
East is corroborated by the terms, strongly suggestive of Confirma- 
tion, which were used in the East for blessing the chrism about this 
time : 

" O God ... we beseech thee ... to work a divine and The Sacra- 
heavenly operation in this oil, that the baptised who have been 
anointed therewith in the saving sign of the Cross of thine only- 
begotten Son that Cross through which Satan with every hostile 
power has been cast down and overthrown may, having been 
regenerated and renewed by the waters of regeneration, be made 
also partakers of the gift of the Holy Spirit and, being confirmed in 

1 Adversus Lucif., n. 9. 

2 Catech. myst. t xvi. 3 Catech. my St., iii. 


this seal, may remain * steadfast and immovable, 5 unharmed and 
inviolate." x 

Innocent I And here, finally, is an authoritative pronouncement of Pope 

Innocent I, at the beginning of the fifth century : " That only bishops 
have the power either to confer the sign of the Cross or to give the 
Holy Ghost, is shown not only by the custom of the Church, but also 
by that passage of the Acts of the Apostles where we read that Peter 
and John were sent to give the Holy Spirit to those who had been 
baptised. For priests . . . when they baptise may anoint the 
baptised with chrism (only however with chrism consecrated by the 
bishop) but they may not sign the forehead with the same oil, this 
being reserved to the bishops only, when they confer the Holy 
Spirit." 2 

Confirmation This strictly limited selection of texts suffices to show that the 

always ad- early centuries of the Church were quite familiar with a special rite, 

The^ofyof distinct from Baptism, which conferred the Holy Ghost ; and they 

the Church could be multiplied with very much greater abundance from the 

writings of the fifth and succeeding centuries, from liturgical books, 

and from the decisions of councils. The net result of these is to 

prove clearly that, from the time of Tertullian at the very latest 

(and therefore by presumption from a much earlier date) until the 

present day, a sacrament which we cannot but recognise as the 

Sacrament of Confirmation has been regularly administered by the 


Heresies con- And, in fact, if we except the Novatians of the third century, 
cerning Con- w hose custom of not receiving this sacrament appears to have been 
formation ^^ merely to the example of their founder and not to any theological 
conviction, no heresies seem clearly to have denied the sacramental 
status of Confirmation before that of the Reformers of the sixteenth 
century. These, generally speaking, admitted that it was a harmless 
but useless ceremony instituted by the Church. Calvin and others 
suggested that it was originally introduced into the Church as a public 
act by which Christians, when they reached adolescence, endorsed 
or " confirmed " the undertakings made formerly on their behalf 
by their sponsors in Baptism ; a view which, besides finding no 
grounds whatever in historical documents, strangely overlooks the 
long-standing custom of administering Confirmation to infants. 3 
The Council of Trent, in its definitions on Confirmation, contented 
itself with condemning these various doctrines of the Reformers. 4 


History of We pass now to our second historical question which, although 

mite Matter "i ts com P lexit y makes a complete survey quite impossible here, is so 
of the important that it cannot be entirely omitted. Briefly, it concerns 


1 Ihe Sacramentary of Serapion, n. 25. 2 Ep. ad Decentium. 

8 See below, p. 833. * Sess. vii, de Conf, 


the essentials of the rite of Confirmation as administered during the 
early centuries, and especially the gesture used in the sacrament, or 
what is technically called its proximate matter. It is quite certain 
that the anointing of the forehead with chrism forms an essential 
element in the Sacrament of Confirmation as administered to-day, 
whether in the Western or in the Eastern Church. Has it been so 
always and everywhere ? 

So far as the East is concerned there is abundant evidence that, What is 
at the latest from the fourth century, and probably also from an earlier generally 
time, anointing with chrism has been regarded as alone constituting a mltte 
the essential matter of the sacrament. In the West there is equally 
no question that, since the thirteenth century, theologians have com- 
monly considered this anointing to be at least an essential part, if 
not the whole essence, of the sacramental matter ; indeed this view 
seems to have begun to prevail even three centuries earlier. It is 
furthermore established, especially by the evidence of Innocent Fs 
letter quoted above, 1 that an anointing whether regarded as es- 
sential or not accompanied the administration of Confirmation in 
the Church of Rome as early as the fourth century, and that this 
practice spread rapidly to the other churches of the West. Finally, 
in the West, unlike the East, the imposition of hands continued for 
a long time, and has continued even to the present day, to be men- 
tioned, side by side with the anointing, as an element in the rite of 
this sacrament. 

The controversy, then, turns chiefly on the practice of the Church, The early 
especially in the West, during the first three centuries. The very centuries : 
few texts which we have cited, whether from the Scriptures or from &* wn 
the writings of the Fathers, are of course totally inadequate as a 
basis for a considered judgement. But, precisely because they have 
been selected for that purpose, they do at any rate suffice to show 
why the controversy exists. The relevant passages of the Acts 
speak only of prayer and the imposition of hands as the means by 
which the gift of the Spirit was bestowed. It is likewise to the im- 
position of hands that Tertullian ascribes the giving of the Holy 
Ghost after Baptism. St Cyprian points to the bishops of his day 
as employing exactly the same rite, the imposition of hands, as had 
been used by Peter and John when they confirmed the Samaritans ; 
and St Jerome, writing towards the end of the fourth century, 
assures us (though admittedly he may have in mind only the West) 
that the same custom existed all over the world. There is enough 
evidence here to make at least a prima facie case for the imposition 
of hands as having been the essential matter of Confirmation in the 
West from the time of Tertullian until the time of St Jerome. 

But the evidence, as may be observed even from a reading ofOranoint- 
some of the passages cited above, is one-sided ; and scholars who tng 
on theological grounds are loth to admit that a rite which the Church 

1 See p. 824. 


of God has for so many centuries regarded as essential to Con- 
firmation found no place in its primitive administration, are not 
slow to urge other grounds which appear to favour a confirmations! 
anointing from the earliest times. They point to the post-baptismal 
anointing which Tertullian describes and which he explicitly as- 
sociates with the interior anointing of the soul of Christ by the 
Holy Spirit, and they appeal to numerous passages of the early 
Fathers, showing beyond all doubt that Baptism was consistently 
followed by an anointing to which the giving of the Holy Spirit 
was attributed as its proper effect. They remind us of Tertulhan's 
celebrated " caro ungitur ut anima consecretur ; caro signatur ut et 
anima muniatur " l (" the flesh is anointed that the soul may be 
consecrated, the flesh is marked with the sign of the cross that the 
soul may be fortified "), and of St Augustine's clear statement that 
" the sacrament of chrism ... is sacred among the class of visible 
signs, as is Baptism itself." 2 As for the practice of the Apostles 
themselves, they urge that the fact that no anointing is mentioned 
does not prove that none took place, 3 and they interpret certair 
scriptural texts which mention anointing * as being likely allusions 
to the Sacrament of Confirmation. 

The post- Both sides are thus seen to have their reasons, and it is clearly 

baptismal beyond the scope of this essay to attempt to adjudicate between 
anomtmg ^^ But it . ^ ^ p er h a p S> to admit that the conclusions 
reached by the most recent scholars do not entirely favour the view 
which sees in the ancient post-baptismal anointing a part of the rite 
of Confirmation. It appears more likely to have belonged to the 
baptismal rite which precedes than to that of Confirmation which 
follows, and would thus correspond, not to the anointing now em- 
ployed in Confirmation, but to another anointing of the head with 
chrism which, still in the ceremonies of Baptism as administered 
to-day, follows immediately after the essential rite of that sacrament. 
This ceremony, though not essential to the effect of Baptism, was 
regarded by the Fathers as extremely important, because it was the 
literal " christening." It was, indeed, as Tertullian explains, 5 an 
external sign which symbolised the anointing of Christ by the Holy 
Spirit ; but it symbolised also the inner anointing of the Christian 
himself which took place in Baptism, and by reason of which "he 
became another Christ. St Isidore of Seville sets forth the signi- 
ficance of this ceremony in the following words : " Since Our Lord, 
the true king and eternal priest, has been anointed by God the 
Father with the heavenly and mystic unguent, it is now not only 
priests and kings, but the whole Church that is anointed with chrism, 
for the whole Church is member of the eternal king and priest. It 

1 De resurr. carnis, c. 8. 

2 Contra Ut. Petilian., lib. 2, cap. 104. 

8 C/. St Thomas, Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxii, art. 4, ad i. 
* E.g. 2 Cor. i 21 ; i John ii 20, 27. * See p. 821. 


is for this reason, because we are a priestly and royal people, that 
after we have been washed in baptism we are anointed in order that 
we may bear the name of Christ.*' l St Augustine expresses the 
same thought more briefly : " In the Acts of the Apostles we are 
told that God anointed our Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit ; 
not with visible oil, but with the gift of grace, which is signified by 
that visible unguent with which the Church anoints the baptised/' * 

For it is important to remind ourselves that the sanctifying action The Holy 
and presence of the Holy Ghost is not restricted to the Sacrament of> irit . in 
Confirmation. It is indeed here that he is poured out with special 
abundance, and with an effect which both the promise of Christ tion 
himself and the constant usage of the Scriptures authorised the 
Fathers in ascribing so particularly to the Third Person of the Blessed 
Trinity, that Confirmation came to be called par excellence " the gift 
of the Spirit." This is why it became usual to say, after the example 
set by the Acts of the Apostles, that those who had only been baptised 
had not yet received the Spirit, or that in Baptism the Spirit is not 
given (i.e. is not received or given in the technical sense of Confirma- 
tion) ; and it is in this sense that we must understand Tertullian, 
for example, when he says that the Holy Spirit is not given in the 
waters of Baptism. 3 But the same Fathers who extol the action of 
the Spirit in Confirmation are equally, and even more, lyrical in 
singing the praises of the Holy Spirit who, just as he once moved 
over the waters so that they brought forth living creatures, now 
moves over the waters of Baptism so that they bring forth living 
Christians ; 4 and who, having once wrought the birth of the Son 
of God in the womb of Mary, now daily operates the birth of God's 
adopted sons in the baptismal font. 5 Quite certainly, the Fathers 
who said that we do not receive the Spirit in Baptism had no intention 
of denying that in this sacrament we receive the adoption of sons, 
and therefore also that Spirit of adoption in whom we call God our 
Father. 6 

Moreover, wherever there is question of the Holy Spirit, the A natural 
thought and the mention of anointing are not far away. The development 
prophets, Christ himself, and the Apostles have justified the con- 
ception of the Holy Spirit as a divine unguent, sanctifying, healing, 
strengthening ; it thus soon became natural for the early Christians 
to speak of every outpouring of the Spirit as a spiritual unction, 

1 De ecd. off., lib. ii, cap. 26, 1-2. 

2 De Trin.j xv, 46. St Augustine's " sacramentum chrismatis " is there- 
fore not a peremptory argument. He is accustomed to use the word sacra- 
mentum in a wide sense to mean any sacred sign, including what we should 
nowadays call a " sacramental." In the passage quoted he may therefore 
well have been referring to the anointing which forms part of the baptismal 
ceremony, and which he might be comparing with the essential rite of 
Baptism : " sicut et ipse baptismus." 

8 See above, p. 821. 4 Tertullian, De baptismo, c. 4. 

5 Leo the Great, Serm. 25, cap. 5. Cf. Rom. viii 15. 

The question 
of "im- 
institution " 

A less re-- 
stricted view 


and for the Church, guided by the same Spirit, to use oil or chrism 
in her sacramental rites to symbolise it. 1 In the ceremony of 
Baptism the use of chrism seems to have been introduced at an 
early stage : the thought that Christians are " born again of water 
and the Holy Ghost " 2 must soon have suggested the addition of an 
anointing to the essential rite of washing. Confirmation, pre- 
eminently the sacrament of the Holy Ghost, called even more 
clamorously for the use of chrism to symbolise the new anointing 
of the soul by the Spirit, and in the East we soon find this ceremony 
accompanying and even, at any rate to all appearance, supplanting 
the imposition of hands as the essential matter of the sacrament. 
And the historical evidence appears to indicate a similar, though 
more gradual, development of the sacramental rite in the West and 
throughout the Church. 3 

Such, I say, is the process which historical research would appear 
to suggest. Nevertheless the difference of opinion still existing 
among experts forbids any peremptory statement on the facts of the 
matter. It still remains possible that anointing was used in Con- 
firmation universally and from the beginning. If this is so, the facts 
of history present no difficulty to those theologians who would apply 
a very rigid interpretation to the doctrine that Christ instituted all 
the sacraments " immediately." 4 In this view, Christ would have 
instructed his Apostles to use chrism (and a certain form of words) 
as a means of conveying the gift of the Spirit, and this method of 
administration, admittedly with slight modifications, would have been 
followed perpetually throughout the Church until the present day. 

But such a narrow and restricted understanding of the doctrine 
of " immediate institution " is by no means imposed by the teaching 
authority of the Church. Indeed, the progress of historical science 
and the closer acquaintance with Christian antiquity which is its 
result are causing a broader interpretation of it to find increasing 
favour with theologians. This version, while attributing to Christ 
alone the institution of the sacrament in its " substance " (i.e. while 
holding that Christ alone gave instructions that a suitable rite should 
be chosen by means of which he would bestow a particular grace), 
suggests that he left power to his Church to determine the essential 
details of some rites and to make such changes as the conditions of 
the time, the utility of the faithful, and reverence to the sacrament 

1 Cf. Isaias bd i ; Liike iv 18 ; Acts x 38 ; Heb. i 9. * John iii 5. 

3 The development may have been assisted by the desirability of dis- 
tinguishing the rite of Confirmation more clearly from that of Holy Order. 

4 The Council of Trent defined only that Christ instituted all the sacra- 
ments (sess. vii, can. i). But it is the common teaching of theologians that 
he instituted them all immediately, i.e. himself, and not by giving a mandate 
to his Apostles to do so. The extent to which the immediate institution of 
the sacraments implies the immediate determination of the elements of the 
sacramental rite is a matter of controversy among theologians. See Essay 
xxi, The Sacramental System.) pp. 749^750 ; cf. pp. 1054-1055. 


itself might render necessary or expedient. 1 It is obvious that, so 
understood, the doctrine that Christ alone is the author of the sacra- 
ments has nothing to fear from any purely material alteration in 
certain sacramental rites which historical evidence may authorise, 
and even oblige, us to admit. 

For that Christ did in fact institute the Sacrament of Confirmation The institu- 
becomes certain when once we have shown that Confirmation is a ^ n f. Con ~ 
Sacrament. Our study of the promise of the Spirit, made by Christ ma wn 
to all who should believe in him, fulfilled in the Apostles and the first 
disciples at Pentecost, and fulfilled also in all the faithful when he 
was given to them by a special rite and as a normal part of their 
initiation, reveals the existence of a permanent sign which is a cause 
of grace. But of such a sanctifying rite we know that Christ alone, 
the source of all sanctification, can be the Author. In this sense we 
may say with St Thomas that he instituted Confirmation by the very 
fact that he promised it. 2 


THE rite of Confirmation, as administered in the Western Church The rite in 
to-day, consists of the following main elements: (a) The bishop, the West to- 
stretching forth his hands towards the candidates, prays that God ay 
may send forth his Holy Spirit with his sevenfold grace upon them. 
(b) Having moistened the thumb of his right hand with chrism, he 
confirms each one of them, saying : " I sign thee with the sign of 
the Cross " (saying which, he places his right hand on the head of the 
candidate, makes the sign of the Cross with his thumb on his forehead, 
and then proceeds) : " and I confirm thee with the chrism of salva- 
tion. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
Ghost. Amen." (c) He then gives the confirmed person a light 
blow on the cheek, saying, " Peace be with thee." (d) Then follow 
an antiphon, some versicles, a concluding prayer, and the bishop's 

Theologians now commonly teach, and the doctrine must be Essential 
regarded as certain, that the essential rite in this ceremony is that^/J^ 
which is described under b. The Council of Trent appears to have with the ac- 
had no intention of defining what are the essential elements of the companying 
sacrament, but it is probable that in condemning the teaching of wor s 
certain Protestants who regarded it as " an insult to the Holy Ghost 
to ascribe efficacy to the sacred chrism," the Fathers of the Council 
had in mind the accepted theological opinion that the anointing with 
chrism constituted the sacramental " matter." 3 This doctrine, 
universally held by the scholastics of the Middle Ages, had already 
received what must be admitted to be at least a very high sanction 

1 Cf, Council of Trent, sess. xxi, De communione, cap. 2. 

2 Cf. Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxii, art. i, ad i. 

3 Sess. vii, can. 2 de Conf. 


in Pope Eugenius IV's famous Decree for the Armenians at the 
Council of Florence, which declared (using the words of St Thomas) 
that " the matter of this sacrament is chrism composed of oil ... 
and balsam . . . blessed by the bishop," and that " the form con- 
sists of the words, * I sign thee, etc.' " l This pronouncement 
derives an added significance from the fact that the object of the 
Council of Florence was to settle certain differences of doctrine and 
practice between East and West ; the mention of anointing alone as 
the matter of Confirmation would therefore seem to indicate that 
the practice of the Western Church on this point did not differ from 
that of the East, where the anointing had been considered as the 
essential action in the sacrament from time immemorial. 

There have been theologians, even since the Council of Trent, 
who have seen the essential rite of Confirmation in the ceremony 
described under #, being influenced therein by some of the historical 
considerations mentioned above, according to which the imposition 
of hands would seem to have been the sole essential matter of the 
sacrament during the first three centuries. This opinion, however, 
has received little encouragement from certain official decisions 
which, in cases where Confirmation has been administered without 
this preliminary ceremony, have declared it unnecessary to repeat 
the rite even conditionally. 2 

Is the anoint- But, granting that the essence of the sacrament consists in the 
ing also an anointing, together with the accompanying words, there remains a 

imposition of -.--, &) r & . . 11-11 i r 

hands ? difference of opinion among theologians whether the act of anointing 
is to be considered as merely an application of chrism, or as simul- 
taneously and virtually an imposition of hands ; and the latter view, 
although hardly any trace of it is to be found among the scholastics 
of the thirteenth century, seems to be favoured by the majority of 
theologians to-day. Here, too, historical reasons are primarily in- 
voked : the imposition of hands is so consistently associated with 
Confirmation in the early centuries, that it is not easy to suppose 
that it has entirely disappeared from the rite as used in the West 
to-day. And we must confess that the opinion which regards the 
anointing as also a virtual imposition of hands derives a certain 
support from the instructions given in the Code of canon law, where 
we read : " The Sacrament of Confirmation is to be conferred by the 
imposition of the hand together with the anointing with chrism on 
the forehead, and by the words prescribed . . . " ; and also : " The 
anointing is not to be done with any instrument, but with the hand of 
the minister laid properly upon the head of the candidate/' 3 These 
injunctions certainly seem to imply that the contact of the minister's 
hand with the head of the candidate is an essential part of the sacra- 

1 Cf. Denzinger, 697 ; on the authority of this decree, see Essay xxix, 
The Sacrament of Order, pp. 1052, 1058. 
*E.g. Holy Office, 22 March 1892. 
3 Cnn. 780, 781, 2. 


ment : in other words, that the anointing is at the same time an 
imposition of hands. 

It would be hard to imagine a rite more appropriate and more The rich 
rich in significance than this. While oil alone is already the divinely symbolism of 
revealed emblem of the fulness of the Holy Spirit and of the virile tftts rite 
strength which this sacrament bestows, the addition of the fragrant 
balsam is an eloquent symbol of the purpose for which the Spirit 
comes in Confirmation : namely that we may become the good odour 
of Christ, spreading abroad the knowledge of the faith as a perfume 
diffuses its sweetness. 1 The anointing is made in the form of a 
Cross, to signify the standard under which the new soldier of Christ 
is to fight, the standard by which (as we have already read in an early 
Sacramentary) " Satan with every hostile power is cast down and 
conquered." 2 And it is upon his forehead that he bears the Cross, 
intimating that he must have no shame in professing the name of 
Christ, and be prepared to suffer any ignominy or persecution that 
the open confession of his faith may involve. The words of the 
bishop as he administers the sacrament summarise its meaning and 
effect with a truly inspired simplicity : " I sign thee with the sign 
of the Cross, and I confirm thee with the chrism of salvation ; in 
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." 3 
There is an echo of mediaeval chivalry, too, in the light blow on the 
cheek (a ceremony which appears to have been introduced into the 
rite in the twelfth century), dubbing the candidate a true knight of 

As knighthood is conferred by the king, so enrolment in the army Ordinary 
of Christ is appropriately reserved to the ordinary competence of its ^"j^ "">, 
appointed leaders. And in fact the Church teaches that the bishop 
alone is the ordinary minister of Confirmation. 4 The Acts of the 
Apostles show that Philip, a deacon, was not able to administer this 
sacrament ; but whether it was in virtue of their priestly or their 
episcopal character that the Apostles conferred the Holy Ghost it is 
not easy to determine on scriptural grounds alone. At any rate 
there is no undisputed instance in the primitive Church of its being 
bestowed by any one of lower rank than an Apostle. 5 However that 
may be, during the first three centuries the administration of this 
sacrament, both in the East and in the West, was certainly reserved 

1 Cf. 2 Cor. ii 14. 2 See above, p. 823. 

8 The use of this form, can be traced back, at least in some parts of the 
West, to the seventh century. In the East the form consists simply of the 
words, " The seal of the Holy Spirit." This form, the legitimacy and vali- 
dity of which have always been recognised, at least tacitly, by Rome, is of 
very great antiquity. 

4 Council of Trent, sess. vii, can. 3 de Conf. 

5 It has been suggested that Ananias conferred the gift of the Spirit on 
St Paul when he laid hands on him (Acts ix 17-18). But this passage of the 
Acts is by no means clear, and has occasioned much discussion amoag 


to the bishop. Perhaps this fact alone would not suffice to show 
that the reservation was de jure : the three Sacraments of Baptism, 
Confirmation, and the Eucharist at that time formed successive 
stages In one solemn ceremony of initiation at which the bishop 
presided, and it was in fact to him that the neophyte, after being 
immersed in the baptismal font, was led to receive the Holy Spirit 
by the imposition of hands. What is more significant is that in those 
cases in which (whether for reasons of ill-health or other causes) 
the candidate had received Baptism from a deacon or a priest, he 
was always brought to the bishop to receive the Sacrament oi 
Confirmation. 1 

Difference of When parishes came to be formed, however, and the spread of 
practice Christianity caused some of the functions hitherto performed by the 
b andwJ aSt bishop to be entrusted to priests, a difference of practice in regard 
to Confirmation begins to show itself between the Eastern and the 
Western Church. In the East it soon became the ordinary custom 
for priests to confirm immediately after Baptism. But in the West 
it was, and has remained until the present day, a privilege reserved 
to the bishop to be the ordinary minister of Confirmation. As early 
as the beginning of the fifth century we find Pope Innocent I speaking 
of the exclusive right of bishops to confirm as an established fact, 
and appealing in proof of it to the Acts of the Apostles ; * and again 
and again throughout the centuries instances recur in which ec- 
clesiastical authority has had to resist the pretensions of priests in 
the West to usurp this function. The reason usually given is that 
assigned by Pope Innocent I : that priests do not possess the fulness 
of the priesthood. 3 

Priests a* On the other hand the Church also teaches that, as extraordinary 

extraordinary minister , the priest can confer this sacrament. This is shown by 
ministers severa i undoubted facts, in particular by a number of past and present 
instances of priests being empowered by the Holy See to confirm ; 
by the present discipline of the Church which, besides communica- 
ting this power to certain priests by special indult, allows it ipso jure 
to certain dignitaries enumerated in the Code of canon law ;^ 4 and 
by the more significant fact that the Church recognises, subject to 
some exceptions, the validity of the Confirmation administered by 
priests of the Eastern communities, whether uniate or dissident. 
Clearly, then, by indult, delegation, or dispensation of the Holy See 
(the terms seem in this matter to be used indiscriminately in ec- 
clesiastical documents) a priest becomes able to confirm validly. 5 

1 See the statement of St Jerome above, pp. 822-823. 

2 See above, p. 824. 

3 Cf. Denzinger, 98, where the relevant paragraph of Innocent's letter is 
given in full. 

4 Can. 782, 3. See Additional Note below, p. 838. 

5 It is to be noted, however, that the chrism used must be that blessed 
by the bishop. See Council of Florence (Denzinger, 697). 


This fact gives rise to a theological problem which cannot be A theological 
fully discussed here. It is asked whether the inability of a priest P roblem 
to confirm validly without the commission of the Holy See is due 
to a lack of the power of order or to a lack of jurisdiction. Authors 
differ on this question, described by Pope Benedict XIV as one of 
" great difficulty and complexity." 1 We must be content to state 
briefly an answer, given by Billot, which appears to meet the difficulty 
in a satisfactory way. According to this theologian the character 
of the priesthood includes the power to confirm ; but by divine 
ordinance the valid exercise of that power is made conditional upon 
a commission received from the Head of the Church. Thus the 
fact that the Church acknowledges as valid the Confirmation ad- 
ministered by priests in the East does not make them ordinary 
ministers of the sacrament ; it implies only a tacit commission 
formerly granted to them by the Holy See. 2 

Turning our attention now to the recipient of Confirmation, we Recipient of 
may say briefly that only the baptised, and any baptised person not Con fi r ati n 
already confirmed, can receive it validly. Previous Baptism is ob- 
viously necessary, because the baptismal character is required for 
the valid reception of any other sacrament, and it is especially mani- 
fest in the case of a sacrament which is exhibited to us in the sources 
of revelation as the complement of Baptism itself. Nor is its valid 
reception a privilege reserved to any class or section among the bap- 
tised, for it has been abundantly shown that the gift of the Spirit is 
intended by Christ to be given to all. 

That even infants are capable of receiving Confirmation is suffi- Infant Con- 
ciently proved by the custom, common in the Church in early times, 
of administering it to them immediately after Baptism, a custom 
which persisted in the West until the twelfth or thirteenth century, 
is allowed to continue to the present day in certain parts of it, 3 and 
still prevails throughout the East. This sacrament is by no means 
useless to infants, for, as St Thomas remarks, " the age of the body 
is no prejudice to the development of the soul, and even children 
can attain the perfection of spiritual maturity. Thus many of these, 
through the strength of the Holy Spirit which they have received, 
have fought valiantly for Christ even to the shedding of their blood." 4 

1 De syn. dioec. t lib. 7, c. 8, n. 7. 

2 Billot, De Sacramentis, I (ed. 5), p. 309. A further indication of the 
importance which the Church attaches to the doctrine that the priest is not 
the ordinary minister of this sacrament, but that he administers it validly 
only in virtue of the delegation of the Holy See, may be seen in the latest 
edition (1925) of the Roman Ritual. It is here laid down that, in the event 
of a priest administering Confirmation by special indult, he shall preface the 
ceremony by publicly warning the faithful that only the bishop is the ordi- 
nary minister of this sacrament, and by reading aloud, in the vernacular, 
the decree of delegation in virtue of which he is about to administer it as 
extraordinary minister. Cf. Congr. de Sacr., January 1934. 

8 Especially in Spain and parts of South America. 
4 Summa TheoL> III, Q. Ixxii, art. 8, ad 2. 


But the reasons for which the Church has seen fit to modify her 
practice in this matter, as well as certain other considerations affecting 
the reception of Confirmation, will be more conveniently set forth 
when we have given some account of the effects of the sacrament, 
for which we have reserved the following, which is also the concluding, 
section of this essay. 


The sacra- CONFIRMATION is one of those three sacraments concerning which 

mental t j ie Council o f Trent has defined that they " imprint a character on 
c aracter 

S pi r jt U al and indelible sign, by reason of which 
they cannot be repeated." 1 And this truth finds expression in the 
traditional name given to this sacrament, " the seal of the Holy 
Spirit," and preserved in the form of words with which it is still 
administered to-day in the East. 2 

The early Fathers were fond of using comparisons to illustrate the 
meaning of the sacramental character, and, although they commonly 
had in mind the Sacrament of Baptism (always more prominent in 
their thoughts than Confirmation, as indeed it still is in ours), yet 
they serve to show us what they conceived the function of this sacra- 
mental effect to be. Here, for example, is a striking illustration used 
by St Basil : " None will recognise whether you belong to us or to 
the enemy unless you prove by the mystic signs you wear that you 
are really one of us, unless the light of the Lord's countenance is 
sealed upon you. How will an angel come to your help, how will 
he deliver you from your enemies, unless he recognises the seal that 
is set upon you ? How can you say, I belong to God, unless you 
bear marks to distinguish you ? " 3 And here is another, used by 
St John Chrysostom : " As a special mark is branded upon sheep, 
so the Spirit is set upon the faithful. It is thus that, if you desert 
your ranks, you become conspicuous in the sight of all." 4 
The char- The sacramental character thus appears as a spiritual modification 

acterof Con-of the soul, whereby the recipient is marked out officially and de- 
firmatwn finitively for a particular status or condition in the Church of God. 
In the theology of St Augustine it gains prominence as an effect 
which is inevitably produced by the valid Sacraments of Baptism, 
Confirmation, and Holy Order, and which no sin can subsequently 
obliterate ; it is for this reason that the sacrament conferring it can 
be administered only once and for all. St Thomas Aquinas sum- 
marises the teaching of Tradition when he sees in the character a 
spiritual power, conferring on the recipient a particular official 
capacity or competence in the practice of the Christian religion. 6 
And with this general definition, applied to the Sacrament of Con- 

1 Sess. vii, De sacr. in gen, can. 9. 2 Cf. above, p. 831, n. 3. 

8 Horn, in S. Bapt*, n. 4. * In 2 Cor., horn., 3, n. 7. 

5 Summa TheoL, III, Q. kiii, art. z. 


firmation, we are brought back once more to the point at which our 
study of this sacrament began ; for the character of Confirmation, 
the first and direct effect of its administration, makes the Christian 
an official witness to the truth of the Christian faith. 

Therefore, as the official donning of the military uniform confers 
upon the citizen the public right and duty to fight in defence of his 
country, so the reception of this character gives to the Christian 
the publicly recognised right and duty to defend the faith of Christ 
and the Church. " Analogy with the life of the body," writes 
St Thomas, " shows that the activity of an adult differs from that of 
the new-born child. Therefore in Confirmation we receive the 
spiritual power to perform certain sacred actions different from 
those for which we are empowered by Baptism. In Baptism a man 
receives power for those actions which concern his own salvation, 
in so far as he lives his own life. But in Confirmation he receives 
power for those actions which concern the spiritual combat against 
the enemies of the faith." 1 

But with the character of Confirmation is intimately connected The grace of 
that further and most precious gift, by reason of which this sacra- Confirmation 
ment is called pre-eminently the gift of the Holy Spirit. When a 
soldier has been arrayed in his uniform he is given arms to fight with. 
And so the character of Confirmation brings with it that special out- 
pouring of the Spirit, that most abundant increase of sanctifying 
grace, which endows the soul with the militant vigour of spiritual 
manhood. The soul is already in the state of grace, but the Holy 
Ghost comes now to fill up its measure, to pour out in greater fulness 
the virtues and the gifts of the Spirit : gifts of wisdom, understanding, 
counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord 2 all those 
invaluable endowments, in short, which it had first begun to possess 
in Baptism and conferring in addition that sacramental grace which, 
as St Thomas explains, adds to sanctifying grace in general a special 
help towards the particular effects for which the sacrament is in- 
tended : 3 in this case, therefore, a supernatural disposition for the 
courage and fortitude which will be demanded by the task of pro- 
fessing and defending the faith. " The effect of this sacrament," 
we read in the Council of Florence, " is that the Holy Spirit is given 
us unto strength, as he was given to the Apostles on the day of Pente- 
cost, that is to say, in order that the Christian may boldly confess 
the name of Christ." 4 

1 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxii, art. 2. 

2 The prayer which precedes the essential rite of Confirmation is to be 
understood, therefore, not as asking for the first infusion of the sevenfold 
grace of the Spirit, but as beseeching God to increase it. Cf. Summa Theol., 
Ill, Q. Ixxii, art. 11, ad 3. On the gifts of the Holy Ghost, see Essay 
xviii, The Supernatural Virtues, pp. 654-658. 

8 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixii, art. z ; Q. Ixxii, art. 7, ad 3. 
4 Cf. Denzinger, 697. 


The fruitful With so rich a store of grace available for him in this sacrament, 
- lt ^ ecomes a matter of the highest importance that the candidate 
should receive it worthily. This complement or consummation of 
Baptism presupposes that he who receives it is already in the state 
of grace ; if he were not he would belie the meaning of a sacrament 
instituted by Christ for the purpose of bringing to maturity the life 
of grace already existing in the soul, and thus falsifying the sacred 
sign would obstruct its sanctifying effect. He would still receive 
the character, nevertheless, since nothing can prevent the seal of the 
Holy Spirit from being imprinted by the valid sacrament. He would 
thus be in the unhappy condition of a Christian soldier unarmed. 1 
But the state of grace is only the very least that is required in the 
candidate in order that he may receive the grace of this sacrament ; 
an appreciation of the great reverence which is due to the gift of the 
Holy Ghost will inspire him with the resolution to bring to its 
reception the best possible dispositions of mind and heart, so that he 
may receive its fruits in greater abundance. 

The age at It is such considerations as these that have caused the Church 

which Con- to change her discipline in regard to the age at which Confirmation 
shouldTe ad- should be administered. That the sacrament confers its spiritual 
ministered benefits even on those who receive it before they have attained the 
use of reason, the Church maintains now as she has always taught, 
and therefore she does not forbid its administration to infants if they 
are in danger of death ; 2 for, as St Thomas points out, " children 
who die confirmed will receive on that account a greater glory in 
heaven, inasmuch as they have thus received a greater measure of 
grace on earth." 3 Nevertheless, the urgent reason for which Bap- 
tism is regularly administered as soon as possible after birth does 
not hold in the case of Confirmation, since this sacrament is not an 
in.dispensable means of salvation. The Church therefore prescribes 
that as a rule Confirmation should not be administered until a child 
has reached the use of reason, that is, about the age of seven years. 4 
In this way greater reverence towards the sacrament is ensured, since 
the candidate is able to approach it as he should, fully instructed 
(so far as his age permits) in the faith which he is to profess and con- 
cerning the nature and effects of the sacred rite he is receiving, and 
capable, by means of his own enlightened dispositions, of deriving 
from it the greatest possible benefit to his soul. It is, moreover, in 

1 On the question of what constitutes an obstacle to grace in the case of 
sacraments of the living, and on the " revival " of the sacrament when such 
obstacle has been removed, see Essay xxi, The Sacramental System, p. 755. 

2 Can. 788. See also Additional Note, p. 838. Theologians admit also 
other urgent cases in which Confirmation may be anticipated. 

3 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxii, art. 8, ad 4. 

4 Can. 788. Even in those parts of the West where the ancient custom 
of Infant Confirmation is allowed to continue (see above, p. 833, n. 3) the 
Church requires the faithful to be instructed concerning the common law 
of the Church. C/. Congr. de Sacr., 30 June 1932. 


keeping with the function of this sacrament, which confers the 
fulness of the Holy Spirit, that children should receive it before they 
make their first Communion. 1 


All that we have seen concerning the history of this sacrament 
the importance which Christ himself attached to the promise of 
the Holy Spirit, the marvellous effects of courage and fortitude 
which the gift of the Spirit produced in the Apostles and in the early 
community of Christians, the fruits of martyrdom which it bore 
during the first three centuries and has indeed continued to bear 
throughout the history of the Church, the vital function which it is 
destined to fulfil in the life of every Christian all this more than 
suffices to show that no one can neglect it with impunity. Christ 
has imposed upon every one of his followers the high duty of bearing 
witness to him in the world, and because, as he himself has foretold, 
this duty will prove also to be a heavy burden he has provided the 
grace of Confirmation to form an integral part of our supernatural 

Martyrs who bear witness to Christ by the shedding of their blood 
are never lacking in the Church ; these are the finest fruits of the 
Spirit of testimony. But there is a wider sense in which we may say 
that the age of martyrdom is never past. The life of the Church 
and her members is a martyrdom that never ends. Our Lord's 
prophecy that the world would hate his disciples has been too mani- 
festly fulfilled in history to leave any doubt whether it will find 
fulfilment also to-day. The world changes, for better or for worse. 
But the spirit of the world remains always the same, and it is against 
this spirit that the changeless Church of Christ, animated by the 
Holy Spirit of God, must wage endless war, and therein bear witness 
to her Founder. 

The teaching of the Catholic Church runs counter to the spirit 
of the world, because it knows no compromise with error ; and every 
Catholic is a martyr, a true witness to the faith of Christ, when he 
refuses to yield one iota of revealed truth for the sake of amity and 
peace. The moral law of the Catholic Church runs counter to the 
spirit of the world, because it knows no compromise with sin. Every 
Catholic is a martyr, a true witness to the law of Christ, when he 
refuses dalliance with evil. Here, in its simplest terms, is the con- 
flict of Christians with the world, here is their abiding witness to 
Christ. The Master has told them : <c If you had been of the world, 
the world would love its own ; but because you are not of the world, 

1 Corjg. de Sacr^ 30 June 1932. Nevertheless the fact of not having 
been able to be confirmed previously must not be considered as debarring 
children from making their first Communion, if they have reached the 
years of discretion. Cf. ibid. 


but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth 
you." Their conflict with the spirit of the world is a proof that they 
are disciples of Christ ; and so the soldier of Christ who fights, is 
at the same time the witness who bears testimony to his Master. 
Here is the public responsibility which Confirmation imposes, and 
for which it equips us. Clergy and laity, men and women of every 
rank, condition, or degree, will fulfil it in different ways, but in all 
it will be the same Spirit of testimony who speaks. " They were 
all filled with the Holy Ghost and they spoke with divers tongues , 
according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak/' The manifold 
ways in which the Christian Ufe can be lived in this world are so 
many divers tongues in which we can proclaim that we are the 
disciples of Christ. 

On the Extraordinary Minister of Confirmation 

Since this essay was completed the Holy See has considerably 
extended the field in which a priest may act as extraordinary 
minister of Confirmation. In accordance with a Decree of the 
Congregation of the Sacraments, dated i4th September, 1946, and 
taking effect on ist January, I947, 1 parish priests or their equivalent 
(not, however, their curates or assistants) are empowered by a general 
indult of the Apostolic See to administer this Sacrament, as extra- 
ordinary ministers, to the faithful within their own territory when 
they are truly in danger of death by sickness, and when the bishop 
of the diocese, or other bishop in communion with the Holy See, is 
not available. The reason of this measure is to ensure that the 
grace of Confirmation, which, though not necessary for salvation, is 
yet of great spiritual profit to the soul and a means of greater glory 
in heaven, may not be denied to the many infants, children and 
adults who, being in danger of death by sickness, might never be able 
to obtain it if the Church insisted upon the exact observance of the 
common law in regard to the ordinary minister of this Sacrament. 

IA.A.S. xxxvin, i 94 6, PP . 349-358. 



BY sacrifice man offers himself and his life to God, his sovereign Sacrifice and 
Lord and Creator ; by the sacraments God gives himself, he gives Sacrament 
a participation of his own divine life, to man. In sacrifice a stream 
of homage flows from man to the eternal Source of all being ; by 
the sacraments grace, sanctification, descends in copious flood upon 
the souls of men. This twofold stream, from God to man and from 
man to God, flows swift and strong in the Eucharist, sacrament 
and sacrifice. As the culminating act in the life of Jesus Christ on 
earth was the sacrifice which he offered on Calvary to his eternal 
Father, so the central act of Catholic worship in the Church, the 
mystical body of Christ, is the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Mass, which 
he instituted to be a perpetual commemoration and renewal of it. 
Likewise, just as it was through the sacred humanity of Christ that 
God mercifully designed to transmit to us the divine life of grace, 
so the sacrament of the Eucharist, which truly contains that living 
and life-giving humanity, holds the principal place among the sacra- 
ments instituted by Christ for our sanctification. 

Truly, really and substantially present upon the altar under the 
appearances of bread and wine, Christ our High Priest offers himself, 
the infinite Victim, to his Father through the ministry of his priests. 
This is indeed a sacrifice unto the odour of sweetness, in which Christ, 
God and man, offers to his Father an infinite adoration, a prayer of 
unbounded efficacy, propitiation and satisfaction superabundantly 
sufficient for the sins of all mankind, thanksgiving in a unique manner 
proportionate to God's unstinted generosity to men. And then, as 
if it were in munificent answer to this infinitely pleasing gift which 
through Christ man has made to God, there comes God's best gift to 
man : the all-holy Victim, divinely accepted and ratified, is set 
before men to be their heavenly food. Through Christ we have 
given ourselves to God. Through Christ God gives his own life to 
us, that we may be made partakers of his divinity. The victim of the 
Eucharistic sacrifice, offered to man under the form of food, is the 
august sacrament of the Eucharist. 

" This sacrament," we read in the Catechism of the Council of 
Trent, " must be truly said to be the source of all graces, because it 
contains in a wonderful way Christ our Lord, the source of every 
heavenly gift and blessing and the author of all the sacraments ; this 
sacrament is the source from which the other sacraments uerive 
whatever goodness and perfection they possess." The unique place 



which the Eucharist occupies among the sacraments was clearly in- 
dicated in the early liturgy, and may still be seen even in the practice 
of the Church at the present day. It was the custom in the early 
centuries of the Church to administer the sacraments of Baptism and 
Confirmation on the night of Holy Saturday just before the Easter 
Mass. The reconciliation of sinners with the Church by Penance 
took place on Maundy Thursday during the celebration of the Sacri- 
fice. The sacrament of Matrimony as well as Holy Order has 
always been, and still is, solemnly administered during Mass ; and 
it is during the Mass of Maundy Thursday that the oil used in Ex- 
treme Unction is consecrated. All the sacraments, therefore, in their 
administration are closely connected with the Eucharist, the .source 
from which all derive their efficacy. 

Hence hardly anything that we might say to stress the importance 
of the Eucharist would be an exaggeration. The Eucharist is the 
centre of the Christian life as Christ is the central figure of the 
Christian religion. The priests of the Church are ordained, not 
primarily to preach the gospel, not merely to comfort the sick with 
the consoling truths of religion, not merely to take the lead in works 
of social improvement, but to offer the sacrifice of the Mass, to con- 
secrate the Eucharist. If Catholics in the past and in the present, 
too have thought nothing in art, riches, and architecture too beauti- 
ful to lavish upon their churches, it is because the Catholic Church is 
the house of the king of kings, the home of Christ, truly present in 
the sacrament of the Eucharist. If Catholics, even the poorest, are 
ready to deprive themselves even of the comforts of life in order to 
support their clergy, it is because they believe that at all costs the 
sacrifice of the Mass must continue to be offered, the sacrament of 
the Eucharist, the food of Christian souls, must ever be administered. 
Devotion to the Eucharist is not an incidental pious practice of 
Catholics ; it is of the very essence of the Catholic life. 

The fundamental doctrine of the Eucharist is that Christ is truly, 
really, and substantially present therein, and to the doctrine of the 
Real Presence much of this short essay will be devoted. When once 
this has been grasped, the rest follows as a matter of course ; the 
effects of the sacrament, its necessity, its constitutive elements, the 
reverence due to it, the Eucharistic practice of the Church, all this 
is but a necessary consequence of the stupendous truth that as a 
result of the words of consecration the living body and blood of 
Christ are present in this sacrament under the appearances of bread 
and wine. 

Since at the present day and it has ever been so non-Catholics 
commonly use Catholic terms, giving them a meaning which is en- 
tirely subversive of Catholic truth, it will be well, before examining 
its scriptural and traditional foundation, to explain what is meant 
by the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence. It will then be 
shown that this doctrine, as defined by the Council of Trent and 


taught by the Church to-day, is none other than the teaching of Christ 
himself and his Apostles, none other than the Eucharistic dogma 
which has been handed down to us infallibly by the Tradition of the 
Catholic Church. Necessarily involved in the doctrine of the Real 
Presence is the dogma of Transubstantiation, to which special atten- 
tion will be devoted, because here we reach the heart of the Eucharistic 
mystery, and in this unique and wonderful conversion of the sub- 
stance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is to 
be found the root of all that theologians tell us concerning the mys- 
terious manner of Christ's presence in the Eucharist. The remain- 
ing sections will deal with the sacrament considered formally as such, 
with its reception and its effects. 


THE reader who has studied with attention the other essays of this The teaching 
work will have observed that, generally speaking, in the history of of the Council 
the doctrines of the Catholic Church three stages may be disti 
guished. There is first a period during which the truth is in serene 
and undisputed possession ; then follows a period of discussion 
when the truth is attacked by heretics, a period which usually cul- 
minates in a solemn definition of the Church by which the meaning 
of revelation is put beyond all possibility of misunderstanding. The 
doctrine of the real presence had indeed been attacked before the 
sixteenth century, but never had it been so fundamentally and cate- 
gorically denied as it was by the heretics of the Reform. Already 
St Paul had pointed out that the Eucharist is the symbol and the cause 
of ecclesiastical unity ; l St Ignatius of Antioch appealed on the 
same grounds to the Docetists of the first century to avoid schisms, 
and " to use one Eucharist, for one is the flesh of our Lord Jesus 
Christ and one the chalice unto the communion of his blood ; one 
is the altar, and one its bishop together with the priests and deacons." 2 
It is not surprising, therefore, that the great schism of the Protestants 
should have been inaugurated by a vehement attack upon the sacra- 
ment of our Lord's Body and Blood. The Council of Trent 3 in 
condemning the errors of the Reformers has given us a clear and 
unequivocal statement of the Eucharistic dogma, which we cannot do 
better than reproduce here, with appropriate commentary. 

" In the first place the holy Synod teaches . . . that in the 
precious (almo) 4 sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecra- 
tion of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and 
true man, is truly, really and substantially contained under the species 
of those sensible things." The three words, " truly, really and sub- 
stantially," are used by the Council with a definite purpose of re- 
jecting three Protestant views concerning the presence of Christ in 

1 i Cor. x 17. 2 Ad Philadelph., chap. iv. 

3 Session xiii. * Literally : nourishing. 


the Eucharist. Zwingli held that his presence was only figurative : 
" Just as a man about to set out on a journey might give to his wife 
a most precious ring upon which his portrait is engraved, saying, 
' Behold your husband ; thus you may keep him and delight in 
him even though he is absent/ so our Lord Jesus Christ, as he 
departed, left to his spouse the Church his own image in, the sacra- 
ment of the supper." x As opposed to this figurative presence, the 
Council describes the presence of Christ as true. Others taught 
that Christ is present by faith ; the sacraments, they held, have no 
other effect than that of arousing faith in Christ, especially, however, 
the Eucharist, since it is a memorial of what Christ did on the last 
night before his death. The Council excludes this view by calling 
the presence of Christ real, i.e. independent of the faith of the re- 
cipient of the sacrament. Finally Calvin taught that Christ is present 
in this sacrament virtually, that is, inasmuch as he exercises 
his sanctifying power in the Eucharist. As against this doctrine 
the Council teaches that Christ is substantially present in this 

The faith of the Church in the real presence of Christ in the 
Eucharist rests upon the words which he used at the Last Supper, 
words which have ever been interpreted by Catholic Tradition in 
this sense. " For thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the 
true Church of Christ, who have treated of this most holy Sacrament, 
have most openly professed, that our Redeemer instituted this so 
admirable a sacrament at the Last Supper when, after the blessing of 
the bread and wine, he testified in express and clear words that he 
gave them his own very Body and his own Blood." From the words 
of Christ it follows not only that his presence in the Eucharist is real, 
but also that it is permanent. The body and blood of Christ are 
contained in this sacrament not only in the moment in which it is 
received by the faithful but independently of its administration. 
^ The most holy Eucharist," we read in Chapter III of the Decree, 
has indeed this in common with the rest of the sacraments, that 
it is a symbol of a sacred thing, and is a visible form of an invisible 
grace ; but there is found in the Eucharist this excellent and peculiar 
thing, that the other sacraments have then first the power of sancti- 
fying when one uses them, whereas in the Eucharist, before it is 
used, there is contained the Author of sanctity. For the Apostles 
had not as yet received the Eucharist from the hand of the Lord 
when nevertheless he himself affirmed with truth that what he pre- 
s ^ n !f u d . to * em was his own body." The permanence of the presence 
or Christ is thus asserted by the Council against the error of Luther 
who although he admitted the real presence, held that it began and 
ended with the reception of the sacrament by the faithful 
+u ^ m / r m J t Ji e fact that the Eucharist is called the sacrament of 
the Body and Blood of Christ it should not be concluded that only 

1 De vera et falsa religione. 


his body and blood are contained therein. In this sacrament are 
present the living body and blood of Christ ; therefore also his soul 
which gives them life, therefore also the divine nature which is in- 
dissolubly united with his sacred humanity. " This faith has ever 
been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, 
the veritable Body of our Lord and his veritable Blood, together 
with his soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine ; 
the Body indeed under the species of bread and the blood under the 
species of wine by the force of the words ; but the body itself under 
the species of wine and the blood under the species of bread, and the 
soul under each, by the force of that natural connection and con- 
comitance by which the parts of our Lord * who hath now risen from 
the dead, to die no more,' are united together ; and the divinity 
furthermore on account of the admirable hypostatic union thereof 
with his body and soul. Wherefore . . . Christ whole and entire 
is under the species of bread and under any part of that species ; 
likewise the whole Christ is under the species of wine and under the 
parts thereof." 

What then has become of the bread, over which the words of 
consecration have been pronounced ? Has the body of Christ mys- 
teriously united itself with the bread and the wine ? Has Christ 
permeated these substances with bis own ? Is he present in the 
bread or with the bread ? The Council answers these questions in 
the negative. Luther taught the doctrine of con substantiation or 
impanation, according to which the bread remains together with the 
body of Christ in the Eucharist. The Catholic doctrine no less 
certain, no less a dogmatic truth than, that of the real presence itself 
is that the substances of bread and wine no longer remain after 
the words of consecration ; they have been converted into the sub- 
stance of our Lord's body and blood. Of the bread and wine there 
remain only the appearances, the species. " And because Christ, 
our Redeemer, declared that which he offered under the species of 
bread to be truly his own Body, therefore it has ever been a firm 
belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod now declares it 
anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a conversion is 
made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the 
body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into 
the substance of his blood ; which conversion is suitably and properly 
called by the holy Catholic Church transubstantiation." 

Hence wherever bread and wine are duly and validly consecrated, 
there is truly, really and substantially present the living Christ, the 
same Christ as was born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered and died 
for us, who now sits in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. 
" For these things are not mutually repugnant, that our Saviour 
himself always sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, ac- 
cording to his natural mode of existing, and that nevertheless he is 
in many other places sacramen tally present, by a manner of existing 


which, though we can hardly express it in words, we can yet con- 
ceive, our understanding being enlightened by faith, and ought most 
firmly to believe to be possible to God." 

In these few sentences the Council sums up the whole essence of 
the Catholic teaching concerning the mystery of the Eucharist. By 
virtue of the words of consecration the bread and wine cease to be 
bread and wine and, while still retaining the appearances of these, are 
changed into the body and blood of Christ. All else that theologians 
tell us of the mysterious presence of Christ in this sacrament is but 
a consequence of these fundamental truths, that Christ is truly, really 
and substantially present, and that he becomes present by the con- 
version of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of his 
body and blood, a conversion which is called by the Church Tran- 


The THE sixth chapter of the gospel of St John relates a discourse of our 

Promise of Lord which we may well call the preparation of his disciples for their 
uc anst 

commun j on j t was t he day following the two miracles of the 
feeding of the five thousand and the walking of Christ upon the lake 
of Galilee, and the Jews, impressed by the wonders they had wit- 
nessed, had come in search of Jesus. Addressing his hearers in the 
synagogue at Capharnaum, Jesus began by upbraiding them for their 
unworthy motives in seeking him : " You seek me not because you 
have seen miracles but because you did eat of the loaves and were 
filled." The Jews had seen in the miracles of Christ, not a proof 
of his divine mission, but merely a source from which they might 
derive earthly profit and advantage. Christ would have them seek 
him for their spiritual nourishment, for " the meat which endureth 
unto life everlasting, which the son of man will give you." This is 
the theme which he then proceeds to elaborate throughout his dis- 
course : a heavenly food which would give everlasting life. 

The idea of receiving food from heaven was not unfamiliar to the 
Jews, who well remembered the story of the manna that their fathers 
had eaten in the desert. This, however, had been merely a type of 
the true bread that Christ himself had come to give. The manna 
had fed the Jews only ; the bread of Christ would give life to the 
world. But it was useless for the Jews to ask for this food unless 
they had faith in Christ ; like all the sacraments, the Eucharist could 
produce no effect, could not give the divine life which is its fruit, 
unless the recipient believed in what he was receiving. The Jews 
had seen many miracles worked by him and yet they did not believe 
that he was what he claimed to be. Did they not know his parents, 
Mary and Joseph ? How could they believe that he had come down 
from heaven ? But the knowledge that his hearers were so ill- 
disposed to believe him does not prevent Christ from explaining 


still more definitely the nature of the heavenly food that he promises 
them. " The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the 
world." The food that was to give eternal life was nothing else than 
his own body which was to be offered in sacrifice for the sins of the 
world. At these words the scepticism of his hearers becomes open 
disbelief. " How can this man give us his flesh to eat ? " But their 
incredulity only calls forth a reiterated and still more explicit state- 
ment ; it is as if Christ were determined to leave no loophole for 
misunderstanding : ** Amen, amen, I say unto you ; unless you eat 
the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you shall not have life 
in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath ever- 
lasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is 
meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my 
flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me and I in him. As the 
living Father sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth 
me the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down 
from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He 
that eateth this bread shall live for ever." 

There could no longer be any doubt that Christ meant what he 
said ; here was no metaphor, no parable ; Christ intended to give 
his own flesh and blood as food and drink, " Many therefore of his 
disciples, hearing it, said, This saying is hard, and who can hear it ? " 
Reading their thoughts, Jesus returns once more to the earlier sub- 
ject of his discourse, the necessity of faith : " Therefore did I say to 
you, that no man can come to me unless it be given him by my 
Father." And his hearers then divided into two parties ; some of 
them " went back, and walked no more with him " ; the twelve 
Apostles remained, and, as at Caesarea Philippi, so here too it was 
Peter who made the great profession of faith : " Lord, to whom shall 
we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed 
and have known that thou art the Christ the Son of the living God." 
St Peter seems to have had in mind the profession of faith that he had 
made on the previous occasion ; he had then acclaimed Jesus as the 
" Son of the living God " ; now he proclaimed his faith in the 
sacrament by which chiefly the Son of God proposed to infuse into 
the souls of men that divine life which should make them the adoptive 
sons of God. It is not merely of immortality, not merely of the un- 
ending existence of the soul, or indeed of the immortality of the risen 
body that he is thinking when he says that Christ has the words of 
eternal life. St Peter's words are an answer to Christ's declaration : 
" As the living Father sent me and I live by the Father, so he that 
eateth me the same also shall live by me. . . . The words that I 
have spoken to you are spirit and life." The life which is the fruit 
of this living bread is the life which the Son of God lives, the life 
of God himself, the life which, when shared by man, is called 
sanctifying grace. 

Hence the discerning reader may find in this discourse of Christ 


a complete treatise upon the aim and purpose of the Incarnation. 
God sent his only begotten Son into the world that he might offer 
in sacrifice his " flesh for the life of the world/' and the life that he 
came to give or rather to restore to the world is none other than a 
finite participation of the divine life which he, the Son of God, lives 
in common with the Father, the divine life of grace which had been 
given originally to mankind in Adam and by him had been lost. 
The fruits of that sacrifice were to be communicated to us principally 
through the sacrament of the Eucharist, in which we should eat his 
flesh and drink his blood, receiving as food that same living body 
which was to be the Victim of the sacrifice. 

The Last The promise thus made was fulfilled at the Last Supper. The 

moment had arrived to which during the whole of his life he had been 
looking forward with loving anticipation, the moment in which, 
about to give himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, he would 
institute this sacrament as the great pledge of his love : " With 
desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer." 1 
The scene is described, with slight variations, by the three synoptic 
evangelists and by St Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians. 
This is the account given by St Paul : " The Lord Jesus, the same 
night in which he was betrayed, took bread and giving thanks, broke, 
and said : Take ye and eat ; this is my body which shall be delivered 
for you ; this do for the commemoration of me. In like manner 
also the chalice, after he had supped, saying : This chalice is the new 
testament in my blood ; this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the 
commemoration of me." 2 

As, just a year previously, in preparing his disciples for their first 
communion, he had left no room for doubt as to the meaning of his 
words " my flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed " 
so here his words leave no possibility of misunderstanding. Wish- 
ing to indicate that he was giving his own flesh and blood to his 
Apostles under the form of food and drink, he could not have expressed 
himself more clearly. The sentence, " this is my body," is one upon 
which it is impossible to make any commentary without weakening 
its force. Searching in my mind for words more simple, more 
convincing, I can find nothing but circumlocutions, which would 
convey the same meaning only at the cost of long and involved ex- 
planations. Those who have related the incident have not thought 
it necessary to give any such explanation ; feeling that any amplifica- 
tion of the words of Christ, far from clarifying, would only obscure 
their meaning, they have left them to speak for themselves. And if 
the writer of these lines consulted merely his own inclination he 
would do likewise. Nevertheless the attacks which have been made 
by Protestants consistently for the last three hundred years upon the 
literal interpretation of the words of Christ seem to call, if not for 
an express answer, at least for some remark. 

1 Luke xxii 15. * 1 Q or xi 23-25 . 


The language of the decrees of oecumenical councils is usually 
measured and calm. But the attempts of the Protestants to interpret 
the words of institution in a figurative sense seem to have aroused in 
the Tridentine Fathers a holy indignation : " (Christ) testified in 
express and clear -words that he gave them his own very Body and 
his own Blood ; words which recorded by the holy Evangelists 
and afterwards repeated by St Paul, whereas they carry with them 
that proper and most manifest meaning in which they were under- 
stood by the Fathers it is indeed a crime the most unworthy that 
they should be wrested, by certain contentious and wicked men, to 
fictitious and imaginary figures of speech." * 

And indeed it is difficult to see how the literal meaning of the 
words of Christ can be evaded. The solemnity of the occasion, the 
words used, the absence of any warning that a metaphor was in- 
tended, the very feebleness of the metaphor if metaphor it was 
all conspire to exclude the figurative sense of the words " this is my 
body." It is true that Christ had often used figures of speech, but 
they had either been so obviously such as to need no explanation, 
or else Christ had carefully explained them lest the Apostles, simple- 
minded men, should be misled. 2 Nor was the occasion one which 
called for ambiguity ; on the contrary, it was precisely the moment 
for plain speaking. It had been necessary for him. in the early days 
of his ministry to shroud his meaning under the form of parables, 
both to adapt himself to the minds of his hearers and in order to give 
an opportunity to men of good will to come and ask him to explain. 
But he was now at the last evening of his life on earth ; he was 
surrounded, not by the suspicious Pharisees and Sadducees, but by 
his own faithful Apostles whom he trusted, to whom he spoke no 
more in parables, but plainly. 3 If they failed to grasp his meaning 
now, they could not learn it from him on the morrow ; for then he 
would be no more with them. He spoke plainly because he was in- 
stituting a new Testament, a new Law ; and a testament, a covenant, 
is not formulated in figurative language. The Old Testament had 
been ratified by the blood of victims, and Moses had sprinkled the 
people with it ; the New Testament was ratified by the blood of 
Christ, of whom those victims had been but a type. Was the reality 

* As an example of the lengths to which certain Reformers were pre- 
pared to go, the following incident is instructive. Zwmgh, the protagonist 
of the figurative interpretation, had been holding a public discussion with 
a Catholic on the question at Thuringen. That same night, he relates, 
" I dreamed that I was again disputing with him, when suddenly there ap- 
peared to me an adviser, whether he was white or black I do not remember, 
who said to me : * Answer him, thou fool, that it is written in Exodus : 
It is the phase, i.e. the passing of the Lord.' Immediately awaking I J^Pf d 
from my bed, verified the passage, and later delivered a discourse before the 
assembly which effectively removed any doubts that had remained in the 
minds of pious men." Subsidium Eucharistite. 

* Cf. Matt, xvi 1 1 ; John iv 3 a. 8 Of. John xvi 39. 


to be less perfect than the figure, the shadow more real than the 
substance ? It was therefore the real blood of Christ which the 
Apostles reverently drank, the blood which was shed for the remission 
of sins ; it was the true body of Christ which they ate, the body 
which was given for them, the flesh that was given for the life of the 

If this were a treatise of apologetics it would be my duty here to 
show that according to sound hermeneutical principles the words of 
Christ at the Last Supper cannot but be taken literally, and that the 
figurative interpretation put upon them by the Protestants is out of 
the question. This has been done exhaustively by Cardinal Wiseman 
in his well-known lectures on the Eucharist, 1 so fully indeed that 
authors who have dealt with the subject subsequently have been able 
to do little but repeat the unanswerable arguments which he there 
sets forth. But the theologian, as distinct from the apologist, has 
another method of discovering the meaning of the words of Scripture. 
It has been shown elsewhere in these essays that the Church is the cus- 
todian of Scripture, and not merely of its letter but also of its sense. 2 
Hence the theologian as such does not treat the books of Scripture as 
a merely human document. If he wants to know the meaning of a 
particular passage he does not rely only upon his own understanding ; 
he appeals to the living teaching of the Church ; for him the sense of 
Scripture is the sense in which it has always been interpreted by the 
Catholic Church. We may therefore base our literal interpretation 
of the words of Christ upon the fact that the Fathers of the Church 
have always thus understood them, a fact which will become abun- 
dantly apparent in the following section. 

The gospel of St John makes no reference to the institution of the 
Eucharist, and the epistles contain only brief and sparse indications 
of Eucharistic doctrine and practice. Nor is this surprising. St 
John seems to have had as one of his objects in writing his gospel to 
fill the lacunae left by the other evangelists ; hence, having related 
fully the promise of the Eucharist, he thinks it unnecessary to add 
another account of its institution to the four already existing, the 
more so as the story must have been so familiar to his readers 
because it was embodied in the celebration of the Eucharist itself. 
The teaching As for the epistles, these, as is well known, were never intended 
of St Paul to k e theological treatises but were written to meet the various de- 
mands of the moment, and thus are hortatory rather than expository 
both in style and content. Nevertheless it happened on two occasions 
that St Paul made incidental reference to the Eucharist ; once in 
connection with idolatry and again in connection with the behaviour 
of certain of his converts at Corinth during the Eucharistic assemblies. 
The Christians of Corinth, surrounded as they were by pagans and 
idolaters, many of them their own friends and relatives, had many 

1 See especially Lectures v and vi. 

2 Essay i, Faith and Revealed Truth, pp. 30-1. 


difficulties to contend with, and not the least among them was the 
question of meats which had been offered to idols. St Paul gives 
them some practical advice on the matter In the eighth and tenth 
chapters of his first epistle to them. Evidently they must not take 
part in the sacrificial banquets of the pagans ; this would be equiva- 
lent to the sin of idolatry. Might they buy in the market meats 
which had been used in pagan sacrifices and eat them privately at 
home ? St Paul answers in effect that they might do this so long as 
all danger of scandal was eliminated. But the interest of the matter 
from our point of view lies in the reason which St Paul gives for 
prohibiting their attendance at the sacrificial banquets of the pagans. 
It was the belief of the pagans that by partaking of the sacrificial 
gifts they were put in communion with the divinity in truth, as 
St Paul rather sardonically remarks, < with devils," How then, 
St Paul asks, can Christians dare to take part in these banquets, when 
in the Eucharist they have a sacrificial banquet wherein they are made 
partakers of the body and blood of Christ ? It is to be remarked that 
he does not say simply that by drinking of the cup and partaking of the 
bread Christians are put into communion with God or with Christ ; 
this is what we should have expected, to preserve the parallelism 
with the pagan sacrifices ; to receive the Eucharist, according to the 
Apostle, is to be united with the body and blood of Christ. " The 
chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the 
blood of Christ ? And the bread which we break, is it not the par- 
taking of the body of the Lord ? . . . You cannot drink the chalice 
of the Lord and the chalice of devils ; you cannot be partakers of the 
table of the Lord and of the table of devils." 1 It need hardly be 
remarked that this passage, besides indicating the doctrine of the real 
presence, contains an evident proof of the sacrificial character of the 
Eucharist. 2 . . 

St Paul makes another interesting, though again an incidental, 
reference to the Eucharist in reproving the Corinthians for certain 
abuses which had crept into the Eucharistic gatherings. 3 He takes 
the opportunity of impressing upon them the reverence with which 
this most holy sacrament should be received, and of warning them 
of the dire penalties attending a sacrilegious reception. The solem- 
nity of the terms in which this admonition is expressed can hardly 
be understood except in the light of the real presence of the body and 
blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Having reminded them, in the 
words above related, of the manner in which Christ had instituted 
the Eucharist, he goes on : " For as often as you eat this bread and 
drink the chalice, you shall show forth the death of the Lord, until 
he come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread or drink the 
chalice of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and of the 
blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat 

1 i Cor. x 16-21. * See The Eucharistic Sacrifice, pp. 883-884. 

8 i Cor. xi 1 8 seq. 


of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drink- 
eth unworthily eateth and drinketh judgement to himself, not dis- 
cerning the body of the Lord." Here, as in the passage previously 
quoted, it may be remarked that the sacrilegious communicant is not 
only said to be guilty of irreverence to the person of Christ who in- 
stituted this sacrament, but is said to be guilty of the body and of the 
blood of the Lord. He who receives unworthily will be punished 
because he fails to discern in this sacrament the body of the Lord. 
If the Eucharist is nothing else but a symbol of the body and blood 
of Christ surely the words of St Paul are excessively severe. 

We may sum up the teaching of Scripture regarding the sacra- 
ment of the Eucharist quite briefly and simply. Christ, having pre- 
viously promised his disciples to give them his own flesh as food and 
his own blood as drink, at the Last Supper took bread and gave it to 
his disciples telling them that it was his body, and took wine and gave 
it to them telling them that it was his blood. Neither in the account 
of the promise nor in that of the institution of the sacrament is there 
anything to indicate that Christ spoke figuratively ; on the contrary, 
the circumstances, the power and the wisdom of Christ himself, the 
manner in which his words were understood by his hearers, all point 
to the literal meaning of those words as the only possible interpreta- 
tion, an interpretation which is confirmed by the manner in which 
St Paul speaks of the Eucharist, and which appears in the constant 
teaching of the Church from the earliest times. " When the Lord," 
writes St Cyril of Jerusalem, " has said of the bread * This is my 
body/ who shall dare to doubt ? And when he has asserted and said, 
'This is my blood/ who shall ever doubt that it is indeed his 
blood ? " * 


NOT the least noteworthy feature of the Eucharistic literature of the 
early centuries is its extraordinary abundance ; so that it is im- 
possible to convey in this small space any but a very inadequate 
idea of the complete teaching of the Fathers of the first three or four 
centuries on this all-important dogma. Yet the very familiarity of 
Catholics with the Eucharist prevented them from giving us in their 
writings the clear and explicit testimony to their belief which to-day 
from a controversial point of view, at any rate would be so valu- 
able and interesting. References to the Eucharist we find in great 
abundance ; but set treatises on the subject are very rare. In fact 
with the exception of the Catechetical instructions of St Cyril of 
Jerusalem and to a certain extent the Apology of St Justin I know 
ot no writings in the very early centuries professedly devoted to a 
doctrinal exposition of Eucharistic belief. Nevertheless those numer- 
ous passages in which the Fathers refer incidentally to Eucharistic 

1 Catech. xxii i. 


doctrine, treating it as well known and not requiring explanation, by 
the very absence of the intention to instruct become all the more in- 
structive. So accustomed were the early Christians to frequenting 
the Holy Sacrifice and to receiving Communion, so intimately did 
the Eucharist enter into their daily lives, that their pastors did not 
deem it necessary to write books to teach them what must have been 
so familiar to them from their daily practice. 

Already in the sub-apostolic age we find St Ignatius of Antioch St Ignatius 
arguing from the Eucharist to the necessity of unity in the Church. f 
" See that you use one Eucharist," he writes, 1 " for one is the flesh 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one is the chalice unto the communion 
of his blood ; one is the altar, and one the bishop together with the 
priests and deacons." The argument is that of St Paul in his first 
epistle to the Corinthians : 2 in the Eucharist you all partake of the 
one body of Christ and of his blood, you all assist at one and the 
same sacrifice ; hence you should be one among yourselves. But 
here, as also in St Paul, the argument loses all its force unless the 
Eucharist is really and truly the one body and blood of Christ. Still 
more clearly is belief in the real presence implied in the martyr's 
epistle to the Smyrnaeans 3 where, writing of the Docetists who denied 
the reality of the human nature of Christ, he says : " They abstain 
from the Eucharist and the prayer [i.e. probably the Eucharistic 
prayer or the Canon of the Mass] because they do not believe that the 
Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for 
our sins and which the Father in his bounty raised up again." Clearly 
then, Catholics, as opposed to the Docetists, did believe that the 
Eucharist is the very body and blood of Christ. 

Still more explicitly does St. Justin state the doctrine of the 
Presence when in his account of the celebration of the Eucharist he 
writes : " We do not receive these as ordinary food or ordinary drink ; 
but, as by the Word of God Jesus our Saviour was made flesh, and 
had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also the food which has 
been blessed (lit., over which thanks have been given) by the word of 
prayer instituted by him, and from which our flesh and blood by 
assimilation are nourished, is, we are taught, both the flesh and blood 
of that Jesus incarnate. For the Apostles in the accounts which they 
wrote, and which are called gospels, have declared that Jesus com- 
manded them to do as follows : ' He took bread and gave thanks and 
said : This do in commemoration of me ; this is my body. And in 
like manner he took the chalice and blessed it and said : This is my 
blood, and gave it to them alone/ " 4 There can be no doubt of 
St Justin's meaning. He is explaining the doctrine of the Eucharist 
to pagans, not to Christians who might be presumed to have some 
previous knowledge of the subject, and therefore if the Eucharist 

1 Ad Philadelph., chap. iv. 2 x 16. 3 vii i. 

* St Justin's account is quoted more fully in Essay xxv, The Eucharistic 
Sacrifice^ pp. 890-892. 


were deemed to be nothing more than a mere symbol of the body and 
blood of Christ, the writer would certainly have made this clear. 
But of the symbolic meaning there is no indication whatever. St 
Justin says quite simply that the Eucharistic bread and wine are not 
mere bread and wine (" ordinary food ") ; they are the body and 
blood of Jesus Christ who became man for our salvation. In fact 
we may find more than a hint of the doctrine of Transubstantiation 
in the comparison made between the Incarnation and the Eucharist. 
Just as the Word of God is so mighty that he could unite a 
human nature to the divinity, so the words that he instituted at the 
Last Supper have the virtue of making the bread and the wine his 
own flesh and blood. 

Stlrenaeus Many pertinent passages might be quoted from the Adversus 
Hcereses of St Irenaeus in which this great controversialist uses the 
Eucharistic dogma to refute the tenets of the Gnostics. These held 
that matter was essentially evil. How could this be so, asked St. 
Irenaeus, if Christ used bread and wine in the Eucharist, elements 
which, " perceiving the word of God (i.e. through the power of God's 
word) become the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ ? " * 
But the references to the Eucharist are so scattered that it would be 
impossible to quote them here at all adequately. One passage, how- 
ever, is especially remarkable because of its similarity with that of 
St. Justin above quoted : " The bread that is taken from the earth, 
perceiving the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread, but 
the Eucharist, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly. " 2 

Tertullian The temptation to idolatry which was a constant menace to 

Christians by reason of their close contact with pagans caused the 
Fathers of the third century to reiterate the warning already given by 
St. Paul 3 against desecrating the Eucharist. So Tertullian has some 
very strong remarks about those Christians who engaged in the 
manufacture of idols ; he speaks of the scandal caused by the sight 
of a Christian " passing from the idols to the church, from the shop 
of the enemy to the house of God, raising up to God the Father 
the hands that are mothers of idols , . ., applying to the Lord's 
body those hands that give bodies to demons. Nor is this enough. 
Grant that it be a small matter that from other hands they receive 
what they contaminate, but those very hands even deliver to others 
what they have contaminated : idol-makers are admitted even into 
the ecclesiastical order. wickedness ! Once did the Jews lay 
hands upon Christ ; these mangle his body daily. O hands to be 
cut off ! Now let them see if it is merely by similitude that it was 
said : * If thy hand scandalise thee, cut it off.' What hands deserve 


2 iv 18, 5, The earthly element seems to be the appearances of bread 
which remain, and the heavenly element the body of Christ present under 
those appearances. 

3 i Cor. ch. viii and ch. x. 


more to be cut off than those in which scandal is done to the body of 
the Lord ! " * 

St Cyprian is no less vehement about the Christians who had St Cyprian 
fallen into idolatry during the fierce persecution of Decius (251). 
While he praises the fortitude of the many confessors of the faith, 
saying that " the noble hands that had been accustomed only to per- 
form the works of God had resisted the sacrilegious sacrifices of 
pagans, the lips which had been sanctified with heavenly food, after 
the body and blood of the Lord, turned in disgust from the touch of 
things profane and the leavings of idols/ ' he laments at the same 
time that many of those who had fallen into idolatry expected im- 
mediately, without having done penance, to be allowed to receive 
Communion : " Returning from the altars of the devil they approach 
the sacred thing of the Lord (sanctum Domini) with filthy and stinking 
hands ; still belching the deadly food of idols, with their very breath 
still giving evidence of their crime . . . they assail (invadunf) the 
body of the Lord. . . . Violence is done to the body and blood of the 
Lord, and greater violence now with their hands and with their lips 
than when they denied the Lord." 2 

Evidence of early belief in the dogma of the Real Presence may Origen / 
be seen also in the outward reverence with which the sacrament was 
received. Origen thus impresses upon the faithful the need of 
reverence for the word of God : " You who are accustomed to assist 
at the divine mysteries know how, when you receive the body of the 
Lord, you hold it with every precaution and veneration lest any of 
the consecrated gift should fall. For you believe, and rightly believe, 
yourselves guilty if through your negligence any of it should be 
dropped. If you justly use such care to preserve his body, do 
you consider it a lesser sin to neglect his word ? " 3 A detailed de- 
scription of the manner in which the Eucharist was received in the 
fourth century is given us by St Cyril of Jerusalem : " In approaching, 
therefore, come not with thy wrists extended or thy fingers spread, 
but make thy left hand a throne for the right, as for that which is to 
receive a King. And having hollowed thy palm, receive the body of 
Christ, saying over it c Amen.' Then having carefully sanctified 
thine eyes with the touch of the holy body, partake of it, taking heed 
lest thou lose any portion thereof ; for whatever thou losest is evi- 
dently a loss to thee as it were from one of thine own members. 
For tell me, if any one gave thee grains of gold, wouldst not thou 
hold them with all carefulness, being on thy guard against losing any 
of them and suffering loss ? Wilt thou not then much more carefully 
keep watch that not a crumb fall from thee of what is more precious 
than gold and precious stones ? Then after thou hast partaken of 

1 De Idololatria, 7. 

2 De lapsis, chap. xv. Chapters xxv and xxvi contain other striking 
passages concerning the Eucharist. 

8 In Ex., horn, xiii, 3. 


the body of Christ draw near also to the chalice of his blood ; not 
stretching forth thine hands, but bending, and saying with worship 
and reverence c Amen/ hallow thyself by partaking also of the blood 
of Christ. And while the moisture is still on thy lips, touch it with 
thy hands and hallow thine eyes and brow and the other organs of 
sense. Then wait for the prayer and give thanks to God who has 
accounted thee worthy of so great mysteries." 1 

With the Catechetical Instructions of St Cyril, from which this 
passage is taken, we enter into a new category of Eucharistic literature. 
In the works which have been quoted hitherto reference is made to 
the Eucharist only incidentally and indirectly ; but St Cyril intends 
expressly to instruct his catechumens on the great sacrament which 
they are shortly to receive for the first time, and hence his teaching is 
much more clear and explicit. So striking is the similarity between 
his words and the terms in which at the present day we are accustomed 
to prepare children for their first Communion that, at the risk of over- 
stepping the limits set for this section, I cannot refrain from quoting 
a few extracts : " Since he has said of the bread * This is my body/ 
who shall venture to doubt ? Since he has said and asserted c This 
is my blood/ who shall ever doubt that it is his blood ? He once 
changed water into wine, which is akin to blood ; shall we not there- 
fore believe when he changed wine into blood ? When called to a 
bodily marriage he miraculously wrought that wonderful work ; and 
on the ' children of the bridechamber ' shall he not much more be 
acknowledged to have bestowed the enjoyment of his body and blood ? 
. . . Consider therefore the bread and the wine not as bare elements, 
for according to the Lord's declaration they are the body and blood 
of Christ ; for even though sense suggest this to thee (i.e. that they 
are merely bread and wine), yet let faith give thee firm certainty. 
Judge not the matter from the taste, but by faith be fully assured 
without doubt that the body and blood of Christ have been vouch- 
safed to thee. . . . The seeming bread is not bread, though sensible 
to taste, but the body of Christ ; and the seeming wine is not wine, 
though the taste will have it so, but the blood of Christ." 2 
Stjohn The need of faith in the Real Presence in order to overcome the 

Ckrysostom a pp aren tly contrary suggestion of the senses is emphasised in almost 
identical terms by St John Chrysostom : " Let us then in everything 
believe God and gainsay him in nothing, though what is said may 
seem to be contrary to our thoughts and senses, but let his word be 
of higher authority than both reasonings and sight. Thus let us do 
in the Mysteries also, not looking at the things set before us, but 
keeping in mind his sayings. For his word cannot deceive, but our 
senses are easily beguiled. That hath never failed, but this in most 

1 Catech. xxiii 21, 22. 

2 Catech. xxii i, 2, 6, 9 and passim. Cf. St Thomas's hymn : 

Visus, tactus, gustus in tefallitur, 
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur. 


things goes astray. Since the Word saith, * This is my body/ let us 
both be persuaded and believe, and look at it with the eyes of the 
mind/' x 

I conclude this brief selection of texts from the Fathers with two 
more passages from St John Chrysostom : 2 " How many now say, 
I would wish to see his form, his shape, his clothes, his shoes. Lo ! 
thou seest him, thou touchest him, thou eatest him. And thou in- 
deed desirest to see his clothes, but he gives himself to thee, not to 
see only, but also to touch and eat and receive within thee. . . . Look 
therefore, lest thou also thyself become guilty of the body and blood 
of Christ. They (i.e. the Jews who crucified him) slaughtered the 
all-holy body, but thou receivest it in a filthy soul after so great bene- 
fits. For neither was it enough for him to be made man, to be smitten 
and slaughtered, but he also commingleth himself with us, and not 
by faith only, but also in deed maketh us his body. . . * There are 
often mothers that after the travail of birth send out their children 
to other women to be nursed ; but he endures not to do this, but 
himself feeds us with his own blood, and by all means entwines us 
with himself." A similar passage occurs in his 46th homily (on 
St John) : " We become one body, and members of his flesh and of 
his bones. Let the initiated follow what I say. In order then that 
we may become this not by love only but in very deed, let us be 
blended into that flesh. This is brought about by the food which 
he has freely given us, desiring to show the love that he bears us. 
On this account he has mingled himself with us ; he has kneaded his 
body with ours that we might become one thing, like a body joined 
to the head. ... He has given to those who desire him not only to 
see him, but even to touch and eat him, to fix their teeth in his flesh 
and to embrace him and satisfy all their love. Parents often entrust 
their offspring to others to feed ; c But I/ he says, * do not so. I 
feed you with my own flesh, desiring that you all be nobly born. 
. . . For he that gives himself to you here much more will do so 
hereafter. I have willed to become your brother, for your sake I 
shared in flesh and blood, and in turn I give to you that same flesh 
and blood by which I became your kinsman.' " 

These extracts from the writings of the Fathers of the first four General con- 
centuries, though representative, are of course far from exhaustive. s ^^ lons 
Moreover, passages have been selected in which the Fathers speak Fathers 
quite clearly of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in 
this sacrament. It would be a mistake to suppose that they always 
speak so plainly ; in fact passages may be found in the writings even 
of those whom we have seen emphasising the Real Presence, which 
at first sight would seem to favour the view of the Zwinglians, that 
the Eucharist is merely a figure of the body of Christ. An exhaustive 
treatment of their teaching would require all these texts to be 

1 Horn. 82 in Matt., n. 4. 2 Ibid. 


considered individually in their context, so that their complete 
meaning might be made clear. Obviously such a procedure is out 
of the question in this short essay. But for those who desire to devote 
some time and it would be most profitably spent to the study of 
the early Fathers on the Eucharist the following considerations may 
serve as some guide in the interpretation of their thought. In. the 
first place it should be remembered that the Eucharist is a sacrament, 
i.e. a sacred sign. There is an external element in the Eucharist, the 
appearances of bread and wine, the proper function of which is to 
signify ; and these are rightly called the sign of the body and blood 
of Christ. If, therefore, a writer who clearly believes in the Real 
Presence refers to the Eucharist as the sign of the body and blood of 
Christ, evidently he must be understood to mean that the appearances 
of bread and wine are the sign of the body and blood of Christ which 
are really, though invisibly, present beneath them. This considera- 
tion is of particular use in the interpretation of many texts in the 
works of St. Augustine. 1 

Moreover, the body and blood of Christ, although they are truly, 
really and substantially present in this sacrament, are nevertheless 
present with an extraordinary mode of existence, which we can only 
-for want of a better word call sacramental. They are present in- 
visibly, intangibly, so that our senses cannot reach them. Hence 
it need not surprise us to find some of the Fathers referring to a 
" spiritual eating " of Christ, in order to differentiate the sacramental 
eating of the flesh of Christ from the gross and materialistic sense in 
which the people of Capharnaum had understood his words. So 
St Cyril of Jerusalem, in the very same discourse from which we have 
selected the striking passages above quoted, laments the unbelief of 
the people of Capharnaum in that " they, not having heard his saying 
in a spiritual sense, were offended, and went back, supposing that he 
was inviting them to eat flesh/' And yet in the previous paragraph 
he had said that " his body and blood are distributed through our 

Finally, it is well known that the early Fathers delighted in sym- 
bolism. This is especially true of the great theologians of Alexandria, 
and also of St Augustine. Now the doctrine of the Eucharist lends 
itself in a special way to symbolical treatment. The connection 
between the mystical body of Christ and his physical body present in 
the Eucharist, already noticed by St Paul, 2 was a frequent subject of 
allegorical speculation and caused some of the Fathers to use phrases 
concerning the Eucharist from, which we should carefully abstain at 
the present day. Not that statements which were true fifteen hun- 
dred years ago have now become false. It is not the truth that 
changes, but the manner of expressing it that varies according to the 
exigencies of popular devotion and of controversy. In days when 

* Cf.e.g. Ep. 98 ; Contr. Adimant. xii, 3 ; Enarr. in Ps. Hi i. 
a i Cor. x 17. 


the Real Presence was not impugned by heretics but was tranquilly 
believed by all Catholics there was no danger of such symbolical 
phrases being misunderstood. But since the denial of the Real 
Presence by the heretics of the Reform we should hesitate to use any 
expression concerning the Eucharist which might seem, in the 
changed circumstances, to exclude the reality by excessive emphasis 
upon the symbolism that surrounds it. 

Of the numerous liturgical documents of antiquity and of the 
frequent references to the Eucharist in Christian epigraphy we have 
made no mention, nor does space allow us even to outline the evi- 
dence of early belief in the Real Presence which may be found in these 
sources. But even the little that we have seen of patristic teaching 
suffices to make it abundantly clear that the Church from the begin- 
ning has taught that the body and blood of Christ are truly, really 
and substantially present in this Sacrament. 


No less essential to the doctrine of the Eucharist than the dogma oi Tran- 
the Real Presence is that of Transubstantiate on. The decree of the ^stantia- 
Council of Trent presents them as logically connected with each^/ 2 " 
other : " And because Christ declared that which he offered under Presence 
the species of bread to be truly his own body, therefore has it ever 
been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth 
now declare it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and of the 
wine a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into 
the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole sub- 
stance of the wine into the substance of his blood ; which conversion 
is by the holy Catholic Church suitably and properly called Tran- 
substantiation." * In other words, it is only by such a total con- 
version of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of 
our Lord's body and blood that his words, " This is my body ; this 
is my blood," can be verified. Hence when the Jansenists at the 
synod of Pistoia laid down that it was sufficient to teach that Christ is 
truly, really and substantially present in this sacrament, and that the 
substance of bread and wine ceases, only their appearances remaining, 
omitting all mention of transubstantiation, Pius VI condemned this 
view. Transubstantiation, he added, must not be passed over in 
silence as if it were a mere scholastic question ; it has been defined 
by the Council of Trent as an article of faith, and the word has been 
consecrated by the Church to defend her faith against heresies. 

The subject may perhaps be best approached by considering the The doctrine 
plain signification of the words of our Lord at the Last Supper : in Scripture 
" This is my body." He held in his hands something which to &** Tradition 
appearances was bread, but in reality was not bread ; in consequence 
of the words he had uttered it was his own body. " The seeming 

1 Session xiii, c. 4. 


bread/* says St Cyril of Jerusalem, " is not bread, though sensible to 
taste, but the body of Christ ; and the seeming wine is not wine, 
though the taste will have it so, but the blood of Christ." * What, 
then, had happened ? All the indications of sense pointed to the 
presence of bread as before ; all that in the bread which is perceptible 
to the senses what we call for the sake of convenience the " appear- 
ances " of bread remained unchanged. Yet something was changed, 
something which lies deeper than the appearances, the " thing " 
which normally has those appearances, which through those appear- 
ances normally manifests its presence, which is the subject of the 
qualities and activities, the chemical and physical properties and re- 
actions which we associate with bread, this " thing " which we call 
the substance had been changed into another substance, that of the 
body of Christ, the appearances alone of the bread remaining. This 
is -what is meant by Transubstantiation. No other conclusion is con- 
sonant with the words of Christ. That he did not speak figuratively 
is abundantly clear from what has been said ; nor is the theory 
of Luther reconcilable with the truth of the words " This is my 
body." If, as Luther claimed, the effect of the words of consecration 
is to render the substance of the body of Christ present in the bread 
(impanation) or side by side with the bread (consubstantiation), it is 
no longer true that this is the body of Christ ; rather, in such an 
hypothesis, Christ should have said " here is the body of Christ." 
Rightly, therefore, does the Council of Trent present Transub- 
stantiation as the logical outcome of the words of Christ at the Last 

The Fathers, likewise, do not conceive of the real presence of 
the body and blood of Christ in this sacrament apart from the con- 
version of the bread and the wine into them. The word transub- 
stantiation did not come till much later, when theologians had had 
the leisure and opportunity to realise all that was involved in the 
Eucharistic miracle. But the essential truth that the bread, while 
still appearing to be bread, was changed into the body of Christ was 
seen by the early Fathers to be formally implied in the truth, of the 
Real Presence. Thus they say that after the words of consecration 
the bread is no longer bread but the body of Christ ; they speak of 
the bread and wine being changed, converted, transmuted into the 
body of Christ ; they compare this change with creation : "If the 
word of God," says St John Damascene, 2 " is living and efficacious 
... if the earth, the sea, the fire and the air . . . were made by the 
word of God . . . why should that word, then, not be able to make 
wine and water his blood ? " They compare the Eucharistic con- 
version with the substantial change whereby the food a man eats is 
assimilated and changed into his own substance. 3 We have seen, too, 
how St Cyril of Jerusalem compares it with the miraculous change of 

1 Cf. above, p. 850. 2 De fide orthod. iv, 13. 

3 John Damasc., loc. cit. 


watey into wine at the marriage feast of Cana. 1 Clearly, then, the 
traditional teaching of the Church is that by virtue of the words of 
consecration the bread and the wine, although their appearances re- 
main, undergo an intrinsic change, as a result of which they are no 
longer bread and wine, but become the true body and blood of Christ. 
Transubstantiation means nothing more than this. 

In considering the dogma of tran substantiation it is well to re- Tran- 
member what has been said more than once in the course of these ^ stan ^- 
essays, that the Church does not define any philosophical system as philosophy 
being of faith. The objection has been made against the Catholic 
doctrine of the Eucharist that this is necessarily bound up with the 
scholastic view concerning substance and accidents, a view which is 
by no means universally accepted, and that the Council of Trent in 
defining the doctrine of transubstantiation exceeded its powers by 
making excursions into the field of philosophy. This, however, is -not 
the case. It is true that the term " transubstantiation " is a philo- 
sophical one and is associated with the system of the Schoolmen ; it 
is true that the scholastic view of the relation between substance and 
accidents has provided the basis of a wonderful synthesis of Euchar- 
istic theology, brought to its perfection by St Thomas Aquinas. 
But the revealed doctrine which the term transubstantiation is in- 
tended to express is in no way conditioned by the scholastic system of 
philosophy. It is merely an expression in philosophical terms of the 
truth enunciated by St Cyril : " The seeming bread is not bread but 
the body of Christ." The inner reality of a thing, as opposed to 
what the senses perceive, was called by the scholastics " substance " ; 
and therefore the change of the substance of the bread into the body 
of Christ was called transubstantiation. 

Evidently, therefore, any philosophy may be reconciled with the Substance 
dogma of transubstantiation which safeguards the distinction between and accidents 
" the appearances " of a thing and the thing in itself ; and this is a 
distinction which any system of philosophy must safeguard if it is 
not to run counter to right thinking. It is a commonplace of experi- 
ence that realities are either " things in themselves " or else modi- 
fications or qualities of things that exist in themselves. A man, a tree, 
copper, zinc, these are substances ; they exist in themselves. On the 
other hand, thought, extension, colour, physical and chemical actions 
and reactions, are called in philosophical language accidents, because 
they require a subject, or a substance, in which to "inhere." 
Thought does not exist except in a thinking subject ; there is no ex- 
tension, colour, chemical activity, except in a corporeal substance. 
Substance and accidents, therefore, form a composite unity which is 
naturally indissoluble ; yet, in reality as well as in thought, they are 
distinct from each other as that which exists in itself must be distinct 
from that which, in order to exist, requires a subject of inherence. 
Thus a bodily substance is not its size, its shape, its colour, its chemical 

1 See above, p. 854. 

character of 
this change 

" Concomi- 
tance " 


or physical properties, nor is it the sum of these ; it is that which 
possesses these properties, is located, acts and reacts by means of 
them, and through them manifests itself to the senses. The sub- 
stance as such is impervious to the senses ; if a body had no extension 
we could not touch it, if it had no colour we could not see it. Hence 
we commonly give to the accidents of material substances the name of 
appearances, since it is through these accidents, perceived by the 
senses, that the mind arrives at the knowledge of the substance. 

The Eucharistic change, then, is one which transcends sense- 
perception, because what is changed is not the appearances but the 
substance. The senses of sight, touch, taste and smell reveal in the 
consecrated elements those properties which are naturally associated 
with bread and wine ; subjected to physical or chemical analysis they 
will present the features of bread and wine ; but the substance which 
is the natural subject of those properties and activities is no longer 
there : instead there is present the substance of the body and blood 
of Christ. We have seen how the Fathers use various analogies to 
explain the Eucharistic conversion ; but it should be remembered 
that they are analogies and nothing more. There is no change, 
whether natural or miraculous, to which transubstantiation can prop- 
erly be likened ; this conversion, according to the Council of Trent, 
is not only miraculous (mirabilis) but unique (singularis). In the sub- 
stantial changes with which we are familiar in the order of nature 
there is always a substantial element which remains common to either 
term ; x and this is true even of the miraculous conversion of water 
into wine which Christ operated at the marriage feast of Cana. 
Moreover, such changes always issue in a reality which is at any rate 
partially new ; thus the food which we eat adds new tissue to our 
bodies, the wine into which Christ changed the water did not exist 
previously. But in transubstantiation the whole substance of the 
bread and wine is changed into the whole substance of the body and 
blood of Christ ; and not into a new body and blood of Christ, but 
into that same which was born of the Virgin Mary, which suffered 
and died for us, and which now reigns glorious in heaven. Rightly, 
then, does the liturgy call this " the mystery of faith/' for, more than 
any other miracle, it calls for the unhesitating belief of the human 
mind in the omnipotence of the Creator, whose hand, having made 
all things out of nothing, reaches to the very roots of being, and there- 
fore can change his creatures at will. 

From this fundamental truth, that by virtue of the words of con- 
secration the substance of the bread and wine is converted into the 
substance of our Lord's body and blood, the rest of Eucharistic 
theology follows as a logical consequence. But with two points of 
that doctrine, since their immediate connection with transubstantia- 
tion is most evident, I must deal before concluding this section : 

1 According to the scholastic view, the " prime matter/' which is suc- 
cessively determined by different substantial forms. 


they are " concomitance," and the permanence of the Eucharistic 
accidents without a subject. Transubstantiation is the conversion of 
substance into substance, and therefore the formal effect of the words 
of consecration pronounced over the bread is to convert the substance 
of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ. Now the 
principle of " concomitance " is that whereas the words by their 
sacramental virtue render present only the substance of our Lord's 
body, yet because that body is the real body of Christ therefore the 
substance (as such) of his body must be accompanied (concomitari) 
by all that is really united with it at the moment in which the words 
are pronounced. Hence under the appearances of bread by real 
concomitance together with the substance of our Lord's body are 
present also its accidents (its extension, colour and other properties), 
his blood, his soul and the divinity which is hypostatically united with 
his humanity. Likewise by real concomitance under the appearances 
of wine are present together with the substance of his blood its acci- 
dents, the body of Christ, his soul and his divinity. Two important 
consequences of this doctrine may be noted here. The first is that 
the separate consecration of the bread and the wine, although as is 
shown in the essay on the Eucharistic sacrifice it symbolises the 
death of Christ, does not operate any real separation of Christ's body 
and blood. The second, and practical, Consequence is that, the 
whole Christ being truly, really and substantially present under the 
appearances either of bread or of wine, the faithful who communicate 
only under the appearances of bread truly receive the whole Christ, 
no less than the priest who also partakes of the chalice. 

There remains the question of the accidents of the bread and wine, The appear- 
which, in order to distinguish them from the accidents of the foody awes that 
and blood of Christ, we shall call the Eucharistic accidents. E 
perience testifies that, so far as sense-perception is concerned, the 
words of consecration have brought about no change : the appear- 
ance, the taste, all the properties of bread and wine remain as before. 
Are we to say that these are nothing more than subjective impressions 
to which no objective reality corresponds, so that the poetic expres- 
sion of St Thomas : " visus, tactus y gustus in te fallitur" is to be 
understood quite literally ? Are our senses deceived when they 
register the presence of a real quantity, a real taste of bread and wine ? 
The traditional teaching of theologians unchallenged until the end 
of the seventeenth century leaves no room for doubt. Our senses 
are not deceived concerning what is within their competence, and 
the normal reaction of our sense organs is evidence of the presence 
of an external reality which stimulates them. After the consecration 
there is no longer present the substance of the bread or the wine, but 
there remains some objective element belonging to those substances 
which produces the sensory perception which we associate with 
bread and wine ; and. this sensible element is the sign of the real 
presence of the body and blood of Christ. That this is the teaching 


of the Church may be seen in the distinction constantly made by the 
Fathers, and applied in particular to the Eucharist, between the ex- 
ternal or sensible element in the sacrament and the internal element, 
or the thing signified ; in fact, in speaking of the Eucharist they refer 
explicitly to the earthly or sensible thing (or nature) therein contained, 
as opposed to the heavenly reality which underlies it. 1 It was only 
with the philosophical system of Descartes that a school of theologians 
arose suggesting that " the appearances " of bread and wine were 
nothing else than subjective impressions produced by God in the 
senses of the observer, to the exclusion of any objective reality be- 
longing to the bread and wine which should be their cause. In the 
view of Descartes there is no real distinction between a substance and 
its quantity ; and hence he was constrained by the doctrine of tran- 
substantiation to postulate the total disappearance of the accidents of 
the bread and wine together with their substance. 

This view is rejected by all theologians, who, while they hesitate 
to stigmatise it as heretical, uniformly maintain as a certain theological 
conclusion that the accidents of the bread and wine remain really and 
objectively. But although all theologians are on common ground in 
admitting the real permanence of these accidents, not all are agreed 
as to the manner in which this comes about. Without entering into 
a discussion of the various views held by orthodox theologians on 
this matter, it will be sufficient for our present purpose to set out the 
explanation given by St Thomas 2 and now generally accepted. It 
may be stated quite briefly in these terms : the substances of bread 
and wine having been converted into the substance of the body and 
blood of Christ, the accidents of bread and wine, since they no longer 
have a substance in which they may inhere, remain without a subject, 
God miraculously giving to the quantity or mass of the bread and 
wine respectively the power of sustaining the other accidents and of 
acting precisely in the same way as the said substances would have 
acted were they still present. That these accidents have no subject, 
St Thomas argues, is the inevitable consequence of transubstantiation. 
They cannot inhere in the substances of bread and wine, for they are 
no longer there ; nor, clearly, can they belong to the substance of the 
body and blood of Christ, which is not susceptible of the accidents of 
another substance, nor, for a similar reason, can they inhere in the 
surrounding air or in the ether. Since no subject is assignable for 
them, they have no subject. Nevertheless, he goes on to point out, 
among the accidents of a corporeal substance quantity stands alone 
as having peculiar properties. It is in the mass or extension of a body 
that all its qualities, all its active and passive powers immediately 
reside. Thus quantity alone, says St Thomas, remains in the Eucha- 
rist without a subject, and in the quantity all the other accidents of 
tlie bread and wine inhere. After the consecration, therefore quan- 
tity plays the role of substance with regard to the other accidents ; 
1 See above > P- 8 52> n, 2. a Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxvii. 


It does not actually become a substance, but God miraculously exerts 
through quantity the activities which normally would be exercised 
by the substance. This principle provides the explanation how 
the Eucharistic accidents can nourish the body of the recipient, can 
act upon and be acted upon by other bodies, can be substantially 
changed thus the host may become corrupt, the accidents of wine 
may turn to vinegar ; this finally is the reason why physical or chemi- 
cal analysis of the species were any so blasphemous as to attempt it 
would give only the normal reactions of bread and wine. 

We must now turn our attention to the mysterious manner in 
which the body and blood of Christ are present in this sacrament, a 
subject which, by reason of its special difficulty and complexity, must 
be treated in a separate section. 


THE Council of Trent, referring to the manner of Christ's presence 
in the Eucharist, says that " whereas our Saviour always sits at the 
right hand of the Father in heaven according to his natural mode of 
existing, yet he is also in many other places sacramentally present to 
us in his own substance, by a manner of existing which, though we 
can scarcely express it in words, yet we can conceive with the under- 
standing illuminated by faith, and ought most firmly to believe to be 
possible to God." To try to explain how this mysterious mode of 
presence is to be conceived according to the principles of scholastic 
theology is the purpose of the present section. 1 

The beauty of the Thomistic synthesis of Eucharistic theology is The Thomis- 
what a French theologian has called its " economy in the miraculous." tlc s y nthe 
Not that the Angelic doctor attempts in any way to attenuate the 
stupendous marvels of the Eucharistic miracle ; but according to St 
Thomas the Eucharistic miracle is one, and one only, namely tran- 
substantiation ; all else happens as a necessary consequence of this. 
The basic principle of his explanation of the manner of Chrisf s 
presence in the Eucharist is that, since Christ becomes present in this 
sacrament by transubstantiation, that is by the conversion of " sub- 
stance into substance," this same miracle conditions the mode of his 
Eucharistic presence. Having become present by the conversion of 
substance into substance, he is present after the manner of a sub- 
stance. Let us see, as far as we are able to conceive it, what is in- 
volved in this substantial mode of presence. 

It is essential to the proper understanding of this difficult matter Substantial 
to bear in mind first of all the real distinction between, corporeal sub-*" 8 " 1 "* 
stance as such and the accidents quantity, qualities and various 
activities through which the substance as such manifests itself to 
our senses, acts upon, and is acted upon by, other substances. The 
substance as such is not perceptible to the senses ; it is only through 
1 St Thomas, Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxvi. 

Christ tvhole 
and entire 
under every 
part of 


its extension or its quantity that it is tangible and occupies space, 
only as extended and coloured that it is visible, only through its 
various chemical and physical properties that it acts and thus mani- 
fests its distinctive nature to the observer. Precisely as such the 
substance is discernible only to the intellect. In this matter the 
imagination is apt to lead us astray ; for, every thought being ac- 
companied by a sense-image, we are inclined to confuse the substance, 
formally and intellectually considered, with the properties and activ- 
ities which are the object of our sense-experience. If in addition 
to this important distinction the reader will also remember the prin- 
ciple of real concomitance which has been explained in the previous 
section, the following statements, though difficult to conceive, will 
be seen to be the logical consequence of the miracle of transubstantia- 

In the first place, then, the whole Christ his body, blood, soul 
and divinity is present, not only under either species, but under 
every part of them. Thus when Christ, having consecrated the wine 
either species in the chalice, gave it to his disciples to drink, each of them received 
the whole Christ truly present under the appearances of wine, al- 
though the quantity of wine consecrated had been divided. The 
same truth may be seen implied in the ancient practice of breaking 
the host after consecration in order to give communion to the faithful. 
The reason is that Christ is present under the species after the manner 
of a substance, that is, in the same manner in which, before consecra- 
tion, the substances of bread or wine were present under their re- 
spective accidents. Now, before consecration the whole substance 
of bread formally considered was present in the whole of its mass, 
or quantity, and also under every particle thereof. When bread is 
divided, it is not the substance as such which is divided, but the 
substance as modified by the accident of quantity ; the substance 
formally as such is indivisible ; it abstracts from dimensions or ex- 
tension. Hence the body of Christ, into which the substance of 
the bread has been converted, is indivisible and undivided, notwith- 
standing the division of the species under which it is present. 1 

But it must not be thought, because the body of Christ is present 
in this sacrament after the manner of a substance, that it is on that 
account deprived of its own dimensions. It is here that our imagina- 
tion is likely to play us false. When we are told that the body of 
Christ is present under the dimensions of a small host we are tempted 
to think of that sacred body as reduced to infinitesimal proportions 
or even as devoid of extension altogether. This would be an error. 
It has been seen that the whole Christ is present under the appearances 
of bread and wine. It is true that only the substance of his body 
becomes present in virtue of the Eucharistic conversion formally 

1 This truth is defined as of faith by the Council of Trent (Sess. xiii, 
can. 3) as regards the species after division. Evidently the same is true 
also before division, for the reason given above. 

The presence 
of the di- 
mensions of 


considered, but by real concomitance there is present also all that is 
actually and really united with that substance, and therefore the natural 
dimensions of his body. As St Thomas puts it, the dimensions and 
the other accidents of our Lord's body are present in this sacrament 
quasi per accidens, i.e. not as the formal effect of transubstantiation, 
but by reason of their real union with that which is formally present. 
They are present, if we may say so, because the substance has brought 
them with it. And here follows a rather attractive piece of reasoning 
on the part of St Thomas : because the dimensions of the body of 
Christ are present in the Eucharist only by reason of their real con- 
comitance with the substance, those dimensions have, so to speak, 
to accommodate themselves to the manner of existence of the sub- 
stance as such. One thinks of the courtiers of a prince, forced by 
their attachment to his royal person to content themselves with any 
lodging that their master may choose. Thus the dimensions of 
Christ's body, being present by reason of their real concomitance 
with the substance, exist in this sacrament, not in their natural manner, 
but after the manner of the substance which they accompany. 

To try to picture to oneself such a mysterious mode of presence is 
fatal to the understanding of it. We always think of quantity as that 
by which a substance occupies a particular portion of space ; and 
this is indeed one of the normal effects of quantity. But actual ex- 
tension in a place is not of its very essence. The essential effect of 
quantity in a corporeal substance is to give it parts, to make it in- 
trinsically divisible. 1 Now the body of Christ has all its natural 
parts and dimensions ; each part of his body is situally distinct and 
relatively to the other parts has its proper and normal position ; but 
those dimensions are not extended relatively to the surrounding body, 
or place ; they are not circumscribed by the place in which they are 
present. Briefly, in the normal course of events a corporeal sub- 
stance occupies a place by means of its quantity ; in the Eucharist 
the contrary is the case : the quantity of the body of Christ is present 
by means of, and therefore in the manner of, the substance. 

Some theologians have found it convenient to expjain this very An imperfect 
difficult point by saying that the body of Christ is present in this analogy 
sacrament after the manner of a spirit, as the soul is present in the 
human body. The analogy is useful inasmuch as it enables one to 
conceive a presence which is not conditioned by quantitative dimen- 
sions ; but I have purposely refrained from using it because it may 
so easily be misunderstood. The presence of a spirit is not con- 
ditioned by quantity precisely because it has no quantity : it is im- 
material. But the body of Christ I repeat at the risk of being 
wearisome has its own natural dimensions. It is not present in its 
normal way ; but this is not because the body of Christ has been de- 
materialised, spiritualised, but because its dimensions exist in this 
sacrament after the manner of a substance as such ; and a substance 

1 Aristotle, Metaph. iv, c. 13. 


considered formally as such abstracts from dimensions and ex- 
tension. 1 

Hence when we say that the body of Christ is present in a par- 
ticular place, in the ciborium, in the tabernacle, in the mouth of the 
recipient, we mean that in the place occupied by the dimensions of 
bread (or wine) there is really and truly present the body of Christ, 
with its dimensions and other accidents, with his blood, his soul and 
his divinity, present, however, after the manner of a substance as 
such. It follows that there is no intrinsic impossibility in the simul- 
taneous presence of Christ in heaven and in many places on earth. 
The multilocation of a body is shown in philosophy to be impossible 
only because of the limitations imposed by quantitative dimensions ; 
these, however, as we have seen, do not condition the presence of 
Christ in this sacrament. There is no multiplication of the body 
of Christ, no division, because these again are associated with quan- 
tity ; it is one and the same body of Christ, present in heaven ac- 
cording to his natural mode of existence, and present upon in- 
numerable altars throughout the world after the manner of a substance. 
Consequences It is a further logical consequence of the Eucharistic presence that 
of this mode the body of Christ in this sacrament apart from a further miracle, of 
of presence which we j^ve no evidence in revelation cannot do or undergo any 
action which requires quantitative contact with external bodies ; 
hence he cannot be seen, felt or heard. Nor, apparently, apart from 
a special miracle, has Christ the exercise of his senses in this sacra- 
ment, because his body has not that contact with external bodies 
which is required for it. St Thomas, so far as I know, does not raise 
the question ; but the strict application of his principles would lead 
one to deny that any such special miracle takes place. Nevertheless, 
many theologians maintain as a pious opinion that Christ miracu- 
lously assumes a power which the sacramental presence would nor- 
mally not permit. 2 Moreover, no violence can be done to the body 
of Christ in this sacrament ; external agencies, be they natural or 
artificial, wilful or innocent, cannot result in any harm to the sacred 
humanity of Christ in the Eucharist ; these can reach only the ap- 
pearances of bread and wine, beneath which the body and blood of 
Christ, present in the manner of a substance, remain undisturbed and 

The same principles govern the permanence of the body of Christ 
beneath the sacramental species. The Real Presence lasts as long as 
the substance of bread or wine would have remained if transub- 
stantiation had not taken place, that is, as long as the accidents and 

1 A further reason for abstaining from such locutions as ** Christ is 
spiritually present in the Eucharist " is that many non-Catholic writers use 
similar phrases concerning the Eucharist, without implying any true belief 
in the Real Presence. They mean by the spiritual presence of Christ merely 
that Christ is present in the Eucharist by reason of the faith of the recipient. 

2 Evidently Christ has perfect knowledge of all that happens in the 
Eucharist, at least through his infused and beatific knowledge. 


properties of bread or wine remain. As soon as such a change has 
been brought about whether quantitatively or qualitatively in the 
sacramental species as would normally be evidence of a substantial 
change, then the body of Christ ceases to be present. The reason 
may be put quite simply in this way : the Sacrament of the Eucharist 
is the body and blood of Christ really present under the appearances 
of bread and wine ; if the appearances of bread and wine cease to be 
present, then the sacrament no longer exists, and so the Real Presence 
ceases. 1 

Such, in brief outline, is the Thomistic explanation of the Eu- 
charistic presence. More, perhaps, than any other abstract truth of 
our religion, this requires the resolute banishing of pictures suggested 
by the imagination and the complete concentration of the mind upon 
intellectual concepts. If in treating this subject some of the greatest 
of saints and theologians have failed to attain the ideal, then perhaps 
we need feel no surprise that our minds are at a loss before the con- 
templation of this mystery of faith. But if we lament the impotence 
of our minds, let us also adore the omnipotence of God. 


THE intimate connection of the Sacrament of the Eucharist with the 
Eucharistic sacrifice has been, sufficiently explained in the introductory 
section ; the sacrament which we receive is none other than the all- 
holy victim which through the priest we have offered to God. We 
must here consider the essential elements of the sacrament, and also 
certain important matters relating to its use and administration. 

That the Eucharist merits the name of sacrament that it is a The 
sign permanently instituted by Christ and an instrumental cause of Eucharist a 
man's sanctification that indeed, by reason of the sacred Body of 5 
Christ which it really contains, it is the greatest of all the sacraments, 
is apparent in all that has hitherto been said. But it is not only in 
its super-eminent dignity that the Eucharist differs from the other 
sacraments ; it is unique in that it is permanent. The other sacra- 
ments exist only iix the moment of their performance and administra- 
tion ; in fact, they are performed when they are administered. 
When the two elements of the sacramental sign e.g. the pouring of 

1 With regard to qualitative and quantitative change in the sacramental 
species, it may be noted in the first place that the length of time during which 
the Real Presence lasts after reception will depend upon physiological con- 
ditions ; as a general rule ten minutes is given as the normal period. At 
what point of quantitative division in the species does the Real Presence 
cease ? From the point of view of dogmatic theology it must, it seems, be 
admitted that even the most minute particles of the species of bread or wine, 
though naturally imperceptible to the senses, if they present the character- 
istics of bread or wine, truly harbour the sacred Presence. In practice, 
however, such particles must be treated as non-existent, because Christ, 
who has deigned to give himself to us in this sacrament, wills to be treated 
as present only when the sign of his presence is perceptible. 


water and the saying of the words are joined together and applied 
to the recipient, in that moment the sacrament exists, produces its 
effect and ceases. The Eucharist, on the contrary, exists as a sacra- 
ment independently of its administration ; when the form the 
words of consecration has been pronounced over the matter bread 
and wine the sacrament of the Eucharist exists in its complete per- 
fection, even though none may ever receive it ; and it continues to 
exist as long as the sacramental species remain incorrupt. 

In consequence of the peculiar nature of this sacrament it is neces- 
sary to proceed somewhat differently when we seek to designate its 
essential elements. We must distinguish two stages : the sacrament, 
so to speak, in the making, and the sacrament in its completed state ; 
and it is only in the first of these stages that we are able properly to 
discern the two parts that constitute the sacramental sign. The 
matter of the sacrament is bread and wine, the form consists of the 
words of consecration ; but these are present only in the moment of 
the confection of the sacrament. After the consecration, of the bread 
and wine there remain only the appearances, while the form remains 
only virtually, that is to say, in the permanent effect of transubstantia- 
tion. An accurate treatment, therefore, of the sacrament requires 
that we consider it separately under these two aspects, in the moment 
of its confection and in its state of completion. 

The matter Little needs to be said here of the matter and the form of the 

Eucharist. The matter consists of bread and wine. With regard 
to the bread, the dispute between East and West as to the use of 
leavened or unleavened bread is well known. In all probability 
Christ himself used unleavened bread in instituting the Eucharist ; 1 
but it cannot be established with any degree of certainty that in 
apostolic or sub-apostolic times there was uniformity of usage. It 
was not until the eleventh century that the question was raised by the 
Eastern dissidents, led by Michael Cerularius, as to the validity of the 
use of unleavened bread ; having raised it they answered it in the 
negative, thus asserting the invalidity of the consecration in the Roman 
rite. The attitude which the Catholic Church had maintained since 
the beginning is embodied in the statement of the Council of Florence 
the Decretumpro Armenis that " the body of Christ is truly con- 
fected in wheaten bread, whether it be leavened or not, and priests 
of the Eastern or Western Church are bound to consecrate in either 
according to the respective custom of each rite." The wine used in 
the Eucharist must be wine of the grape, 2 though in certain circum- 
stances a little alcohol may be artificially added for purposes of pre- 
servation. The ritual of adding a few drops of water to the wine at 

1 Matt, xxvi 17. 

2 The suggestion of Harnack (Brot und Wasser, Leipzig, 1891), based 
on a passage of St Cyprian's letter to Caecilius, that the primitive Church 
used water in the Eucharist instead of wine, has met with so little encourage- 
ment that it deserves to be mentioned only as a curiosity. 


the Offertory has probably an historical basis in the act of Christ 
himself at the Last Supper, and its symbolism is beautifully ex- 
pressed in the prayer which the priest recites as he adds them : 
" O God who in creating human nature hast wonderfully dignified it 
and still more wonderfully formed it again ; grant that by the mystery 
of this water and wine we may be made partakers of the divine nature 
of him who vouchsafed to become partaker of our humanity, namely, 
Jesus Christ our Lord, thy Son." 1 

The form of the sacrament consists of the words used by Christ The form 
himself in instituting the Eucharist : over the bread, " This is my 
body " ; and over the wine, " This is the chalice of my blood of the 
new and eternal testament mystery of faith which shall be shed 
for you and for many unto the remission of sins." What words may 
be omitted without affecting the validity of the consecration is a 
question discussed by moral theologians, and as not being of general 
interest may be disregarded here. It is held by the Eastern dissidents 
that the prayer called the Epiclesis, which in certain liturgies follows 
the consecration, is essential to the effect of transubstantiation. A 
more detailed treatment of this matter will be found elsewhere ; 2 
suffice it to state here that according to Catholic teaching transub- 
stantiation is operated solely by the words of institution. 

Turning now to consider the sacrament in its completed state we What con- 
are confronted by the preliminary question of what constitutes the s t ^ tutes fhe 
" sacrament " properly so called. Is the sacrament of the Eucharist 
the body of Christ only, or is it merely the species of bread and wine, 
or is it both together ? Subtle theological discussion as to the precise 
meaning to be attached to the word " sacrament " has caused various 
answers to be given to this question. If, however, we abstract from 
such subtleties, we may reply quite simply that the sacrament of the 
Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ really present, after the 
manner of a substance, under the appearances of bread and wine, 
and destined to be our spiritual and supernatural food. Hence not 
only the body of Christ really present constitutes the sacrament, not 
only the consecrated species, but both the body of Christ and the 
species together ; for the former without the latter is not a visible 
sign, and the species without the body of Christ present under them 
are not the cause of grace. 

The Eucharist, being a sacrament, is destined to be received by Reservation 
the faithful. But, as the fathers of the Council of Trent point out, c d 
" it is not the less on this account to be adored by them." 3 The* 20 " 
practice of the Church of paying to the Eucharist the worship which 
is due to God alone is but a logical consequence of her belief that 

1 Evidently this small quantity of water does not change the nature of 
the wine, but it is absorbed into the water naturally contained therein, and 
thus at the consecration is changed into the blood of Christ, 

2 The Eucharistic Sacrifice, pp. 917918. 
8 Session xiii, c. 5. 

of lawful 

The natural 
f ast 


therein is permanently present the living Christ, true God and true 
man. The Feast of Corpus Christi, processions of the Blessed 
Sacrament, Benediction, are merely the devotional expression, sanc- 
tioned or even commanded by the Church, of this traditional faith in 
the Real Presence. Likewise connected with that belief, and with 
the sacramental character of the Eucharist, is the custom of reserving 
the Blessed Sacrament with a view to its administration to the sick. 
Hence the Council of Trent anathematises those who " say that it is 
not allowed to reserve the Eucharist in the tabernacle, but that it 
must be administered to those present immediately after the con- 
secration, or that it may not be carried with honour to the sick." l 
A providential aspect of the practice of reservation is the opportunity 
thus afforded to the devout faithful of paying those private visits to 
the Blessed Sacrament which are so fruitful a source of grace and so 
edifying a feature of Catholic devotional life. 

For the proper reception of the sacrament two conditions are 
necessary, the state of grace and the natural fast from the preceding 
midnight. We have seen how vehemently St Paul insists upon the 
worthy reception of the Eucharist 2 and throughout Tradition we 
hear the echo of his words. Suffice it to quote two well-known 
passages : " This food," writes St Justin, 3 " is called the Eucharist, 
of which none is allowed to partake unless he believes our teaching 
to be true and has been washed in the laver which is unto the remis- 
sion of sins and regeneration, and so lives as Christ has commanded." 
And the Eucharistic prayer of the Didache (a document of the second 
half of the first century) concludes with the solemn warning : "If 
anyone be holy let him approach ; otherwise let him do penance." 
The reason why the state of grace is necessary in the recipient of this 
sacrament is to be sought not only in the reverence due to the body 
and blood of Christ, but in the purpose for which this sacrament was 
instituted. The Eucharist is the divinely appointed food whereby 
the supernatural life of grace is to be sustained in our souls ; and food 
is not given to the dead but to the living. Those who are dead in sin 
must rise to newness of life in baptism, the sacrament of regeneration, 
those who have allowed themselves again to become subject to the 
captivity of Satan must be loosed from their sins in the sacrament of 
Penance, 4 before they can partake of the food of life. 

Of the second disposition required for the reception of the Eucha- 
rist the natural fast St Augustine gives the following explanation : 
" It is clear," he writes, 5 " that when the disciples first received the 

1 Session xiii, c. 7. 2 i Cor. xi 27. a Apol. I, c. 66. 

4 In this connection the following precept of the Council of Trent is 
important : " For fear lest so great a sacrament should be received un- 
worthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains 
and declares that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of 
necessity to be made beforehand by those whose conscience is burdened 
with mortal sin, however contrite they may think themselves " (Sess. xiii, 
c - ) 5 Ep. 54, c. 6. 


body and blood of the Lord they did not receive fasting. . . . Later, 
however, it pleased the Holy Spirit that, for the honour due to so 
great a sacrament, the body of Christ should enter the mouth of a 
Christian before any other food ; and therefore throughout the whole 
world this custom is observed." An earlier trace of this law is to be 
found in Tertullian's Ad uxorem^ where he refers to the custom of 
receiving the Eucharist privately at home " before taking any food." 

It was the ordinary rule in the early Church that the faithful, as Reception 
well as the priest who offered the sacrifice, should receive communion ?^ff r one 
under both species. But that on occasion, when convenience or 
necessity required it, the faithful partook only of one species is evi- 
dent from numerous documents of early Christian times. Tertullian, 
in the passage to which reference has just been, made, witnesses to the 
custom of receiving the Eucharist at home under the species of bread 
only, and it was fairly common to give communion under one species 
either of bread or of wine only to the sick. Young children, 
to whom the Eucharist was then generally administered, received 
under the species of wine only, and an indication of the early belief 
that one species was sufficient for the proper reception of the sacra- 
ment may be seen in the very ancient liturgy of the Mass of the Pre- 
sanctified, where the priest receives under the species of bread alone. 
Evidently, therefore, the use of both species by the faithful is not of 
divine precept or institution, since otherwise the above-mentioned 
practices could never have been introduced without arousing com- 
ment and opposition. It was only in the fifteenth century that the 
Hussites followed in this by many of the Reformers of the succeed- 
ing century insisted upon the necessity of communion under both 
species. The whole matter cannot be better summarised than in the 
words of the Council of Trent : " Holy Mother Church, knowing her 
authority in the administration of the sacraments, although the use of 
both species has from the beginning of the Christian religion not been 
infrequent, yet, that custom having in the progress of time been 
widely changed, induced by weighty and just reasons, 2 has approved 
of this custom of communicating under one species, and decreed that 
it was to be held as a law. . . . This synod moreover declares that 
although, as has already been said, our Redeemer at the Last Supper 
instituted and delivered to the Apostles this sacrament in two species, 
yet it is to be acknowledged that Christ whole and entire, and a true 
sacrament, are received under either species alone ; and that there- 
fore, as regards the fruit, they who receive one species alone are not 
defrauded of any grace necessary for salvation." 8 


2 Among these reasons the following may be enumerated : the difficulty 
of reserving the species of wine ; the danger of spilling and other inconveni- 
ences attending distribution ; the rarity of wine in certain districts ; and 
finally the practical profession of faith in the presence of Christ whole and 
entire under either species alone, which such custom involves. 

8 Session xxi, c. a and c. 3 , 


One further question, that of the necessity of the Eucharist for 
salvation, remains to be treated. But as the elements for its solution 
are provided by the consideration of the effects of the sacrament it 
will find place more conveniently in the succeeding section. 


The Sacra- As the Eucharist is the greatest of all the sacraments, so it is par- 
ment of the ticularly fitting that the words in which Christ himself has described 
dimneUfe it& effects should have been preserved for us in the Scriptures with 
the greatest completeness and detail. In an earlier section reference 
has been made to the discourse, related by St. John, 1 in which our 
Saviour prepared his disciples for their first communion. From the 
beginning of this discourse to the end it is clear that the effect of the 
Eucharist is life. The Eucharist is " the bread of God . . . that 
giveth life to the world " ; it is " the bread of life ... the living 
bread that came down from heaven . . . the bread . . . that if any 
man eat of it he may not die . . . if any man eat of this bread he shall 
live for ever " ; in fact it is the food which is indispensable for life, 
for " except you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood 
you shall not have life in you ; he that eateth my flesh and drinketh 
my blood hath everlasting life and I will raise him up at the last day. 
... He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me 
and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me and I live by the 
Father, so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. ... He 
that eateth this bread shall live for ever." St Peter could not have 
expressed more appropriately his faith in his Master's teaching than 
by saying : " Thou hast the words of eternal life." 

And what is this life which is so evidently the proper effect of 
the Eucharist ? The words of Christ leave no room for doubt. It 
is the divine life, the life of God himself ; the life which the Son, the 
second Person of the Blessed Trinity, lives in common with the 
Father, and of which he, through this ineffable sacrament, communi- 
cates to us a finite participation. It is the same life to which we are 
" born again of water and the Holy Ghost/' in virtue of which, being 
made partakers of the divine nature and receiving the Spirit of adop- 
tion, we become the adopted sons of God. It is this community of 
the divine life which makes all Christians to be one ; as the Father is 
in Christ, and he in the Father, so all who partake of this life are one 
in them ; " I in them/' says Christ after the Last Supper, " and 
thou in me ; that they may be made perfect in one. J) 2 This is the 
reason why Christ promises that he who receives the Eucharist will 
abide in Christ as Christ abides in him. By receiving this sacrament 
we become members of his mystical body, and thus are vivified by 
the vital principle of that body, which is none other than the divine 
life of sanctifying grace, the life to which Christ is referring when he 

1 vi 27 ff. 2 John xvii 23. 


says, at the Last Supper, " I am the vine ; you the branches ; he 
that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit ; for 
without me you can do nothing." 

" The effect of this sacrament,'* says St Thomas, " is union with Union with 
the mystical body of Christ," I union with Christ by sanctifying grace Chnst 
and union with all the members of his mystical body. " We being 
many," says St Paul, " are one bread, one body, all that partake of one 
bread." 2 " Just as this bread," prayed the Christians of the first 
century, 3 " was once dispersed upon the hills and has been gathered 
into one substance, so may thy Church be gathered together from the 
ends of the earth into thy Kingdom." None of the Fathers has so 
clearly expressed this fundamental Eucharistic truth as St Augustine. 
" The faithful," he writes, 4 " know the body of Christ if they do not 
neglect to be the body of Christ. Let them become the body of 
Christ if they wish to live by the Spirit of Christ. Only the body of 
Christ lives by the Spirit of Christ ; and therefore it is that St Paul, 
explaining to us the nature of this bread, says : * We being many are 
one bread, one body/ O sacrament of piety ! O symbol of unity ! 
O bond of charity ! He who wills to live has here the place to live, 
has here the source of his life. Let him approach and believe, let 
him be incorporated, that he may receive life." 5 

In order to understand what is meant by this union with Christ 
which is the proper effect of the Eucharist it is important to distin- 
guish between the actual reception of the Sacrament and the effect 
of the reception. The very act of receiving Holy Communion in- 
volves a union between the body of Christ and ourselves, inasmuch as 
that Sacred Body, under the appearances of bread and wine, is truly, 
really and substantially present within our own bodies until the species 
have become corrupt. But this is not the union with Christ of which 
we speak as the effect of the Eucharist. The union which the 
Eucharist effects is a spiritual, supernatural union with Christ by 
means of sanctifying grace and charity, a union which may appro- 
priately be described as " vital," since it consists in the communication 
to our souls of the supernatural life of grace, the life of the mystical 
body of Christ. Just as during his life on earth the healing touch of 
his body gave sight to the blind and healed all manner of bodily 
diseases, so his life-giving humanity, sacramentally received by us, 
gives to our souls the life which makes us members of him and par- 
takers of the divine nature. 

The attentive reader will have observed that this effect union The 
with Christ by sanctifying grace and charity which the sources of Eucharist 
revelation represent as the proper effect of the Eucharist, is none other 
than the effect which is common to all the sacraments of the New 
Law ; for all these produce sanctifying grace in our souls. And it is 

1 Summa TheoL, Q. Ixxiii, art. 3. 2 i Cor. x 17. 

3 Didache, c. 9, 4. * In Joan.> tr. xxvi, 13. 

c See also the passage of St John Chrysostom quoted on p. 855. 


this fact, more than any other, that enables us to understand the 
unique place which the Eucharist holds among the sacraments. 
For the Eucharist, says St Thomas, " has of itself the power of giving 
grace/' " This sacrament," says the Catechism of the Council of 
Trent, " is the source from which the other sacraments derive what- 
ever perfection and goodness they possess." 

While it is true, then, that all the sacraments produce sanctifying 
grace, yet the Eucharist alone produces it as its own proper effect 
ex seipso, says St Thomas. The other sacraments produce grace only 
in virtue of their essential relation to the Eucharist. And if we con- 
sider each of the sacraments we shall see the truth of the words of 
St Thomas : " The Eucharist is the end of all the sacraments, for the 
sanctification given in all the sacraments constitutes a preparation 
either for the reception or for the consecration of the Eucharist." 
By Baptism, according to the well-known teaching of St Paul, 1 we 
die to sin in order that we may live to Christ ; the mystical death that 
we undergo in this sacrament is but the preparation for the mystical 
life that we live in Christ through the Eucharist. By Confirmation 
we are armed against the dangers which threaten the unity of Christ's 
mystical body, a unity which, as we have seen, is the proper effect of 
the Eucharist. Penance removes the actual sins committed after 
baptism, sins which are an obstacle to union with Christ by charity, 
while Extreme Unction removes those last relics of sin, that spiritual 
weakness which results from sin and handicaps the soul in its endea- 
vour to live for God alone. The relation of the Sacrament of Order 
to the Eucharist is too obvious to need explanation ; while Matri- 
mony, as signifying the union of Christ with his spouse the Church, 
is a type of that intimate union of the faithful with Christ which is 
the proper effect of the greatest of all the sacraments. 

Th* sacra- The Catechism of the Council of Trent, in the passage already 

mental grace quoted more than once, compares the Eucharist to the source or 
" f fh * fountain-head ; and the similitude may be found useful in order to 

explain more fully the effect of the sacrament. The water that flows 
at the source has a characteristically stimulating effect. So too, al- 
though all the sacraments produce sanctifying grace, yet the grace 
which is given in the Eucharist has that especially stimulating and 
invigorating quality which we associate with water that flows fresh 
from the source. Each sacrament, as is well known, besides giving 
sanctifying grace, produces an effect called sacramental grace 
which is peculiar to itself. This sacramental grace, says St Thomas, 2 
" adds to grace commonly so called and to the virtues and gifts a 
certain divine help to attain the end of the sacrament." Now the end 
of the sacrament of the Eucharist is union with Christ by charity ; 
the sacramental grace of the Eucharist, therefore, is a special help for 
the attainment of that union which St Paul calls " the bond of per- 
f~,vH/vn theologians call it *' the fervour of charity." 

of the 


1 Rom. vi 2-10. 

2 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixii, art. 2. 


The matter is so important that no apology need be made for The fervour 
devoting some little space to the explanation of this effect of the 
Eucharist. The virtue of charity is that supernatural habit * infused 
together with sanctifying grace, which enables us to love God for his 
own sake above all things. One who has the virtue of charity has 
such a habit of mind that he regards God as the last end to which he 
must direct all his actions, to which his whole life must be sub- 
ordinated. It is true that he is not always thinking of God ; he does 
not, as theologians say, always " actually " direct all his actions to 
God's glory ; but he is " habitually " so constituted in regard to God 
that if any action presented itself to his mind as incompatible with 
God's friendship he would reject it, because he loves God above all 
things. Such a state is called " habitual charity." But there are 
times in our lives when, the thought of God is strong within us, when 
we realise more fully that God is the sovereign Good, that all that we 
have is ours only because it comes from God, and therefore must be 
given back to him. In such moments we live " actually " for God ; 
all that is ours we actually refer to him, the source of all good ; then 
we have some small understanding of what St Paul meant when he 
said : " I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me/ 5 and perhaps we 
feel " our heart burning within us " as did the disciples on the way 
to Emmaus, so that to God we cry with the Psalmist : " How sweet 
are thy words to my palate ! more than honey to my mouth." 2 

This actual and conscious referring of our actions to God is called 
the " fervour of charity." Some of the saints have reached the stage 
of perfection in which this fervour of devotion is alive constantly 
within them ; but with the majority of mankind such moments are 
comparatively rare. In time of retreat, perhaps, during prayer and 
as a result of humble and unremitting effort, in the church, and above 
all after Holy Communion, we may be filled with that actual realisa- 
tion of all that God is and of the little that we are in his sight, and we 
may be fired with that zeal for the service of God, with that fervour 
of charity that makes us say with St Paul : " The charity of Christ 
presseth us on." 3 

This, then, is the special fruit of the Eucharist. Just as daily 
contact with Christ during his life on earth must have aroused in the 
hearts of his disciples an ardent and enthusiastic love for his divine 
Person, so he who drinks living waters of the fountains of the Saviour, 
deriving grace from the intimate touch of his life-giving humanity, 
breaks into fervent acts of divine love, acts which increase 4 and es- 
tablish more firmly in him the virtue by which he adheres to God the 
Sovereign Good. And so it is seen how truly this sacrament is called 
the food of the soul, and how appropriately the body and blood of 

1 See Essay xviii, The Supernatural Virtues, pp. 645 ff. 

2 Ps. cxviii 103. 3 2, Cor. v 14. 

4 I.e. not effectively but meritoriously. See Essay xviii, The Super- 
natural Virtues, pp. 629-630. 


Christ are given to mankind under the outward form of bodily food. 
For " all those effects which material food and drink produce in 
regard to bodily life are produced in respect of the spiritual life by 
this sacrament ; it sustains, it gives increase, it repairs (the ravages of 
disease) and it gives delight." l 

Other effects That this sacramental food sustains and invigorates the life of the 
of the sacra- sou i j s c j ear f rom ^^ j^ j ])een $%[& g ut j t does not give that life 

ment in the first instance ; before the soul may be nourished with the 

heavenly food of the Eucharist it must first have been born to the 
supernatural life through the sacrament of regeneration ; the life- 
giving virtue of the Eucharist must first have been applied to the soul 
through the intermediary of baptism, by which man dies to sin that 
he " may walk in newness of life " ; 2 and if by mortal sin he should 
have become a dead member of Christ's mystical body, that same life- 
giving power must be applied to him through the sacrament of recon- 
ciliation before he can be nourished again by the sacrament of unity. 3 
But, just as bodily food repairs the effects of a disease which is not 
mortal, although it cannot give life to a dead body, so the Eucharist 
has the effect of remitting venial sin, inasmuch as it arouses in the 
soul the fervour of charity, to which alone venial sin is opposed. 4 
Indirectly, too, such fervour remits the temporal punishment due to 

In strengthening the supernatural life of the soul the Eucharist 
also preserves it from future sin, because the fervour of charity which 
is the special fruit of this sacrament renders the soul less susceptible 
to the attractions of the devil, the world, and the flesh, and more 
prompt in its obedience to the will of God. 

A final analogy between the food of the body and the Eucharist, 
the spiritual food of the soul, is to be found in the pleasure or delight 
which accompanies its reception. This effect in the case of the 
Eucharist takes the form of a certain alacrity and spiritual joy in the 
fulfilment of the divine will, which is characteristic of the fervour of 
charity. But it is to be noted that, just as one who, being in indif- 
ferent health, approaches his meal listlessly and without appetite, 
will fail to relish his food, so he who approaches this divine sacrament 
with his mind distracted, with his will not fully detached from the 
things of earth, will not perceive that spiritual sweetness to which the 
Psalmist invites us with the words : " O taste and see that the Lord 
is sweet/ 5 5 On the other hand this spiritual responsiveness to the 
will of God, which is the normal effect of Holy Communion received 

1 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxix, art. i. 8 Rom. vi 4. 

3 It is commonly held, however, that one who receives Holy Communion 
being unconscious or oblivious of his mortal sin and implicitly sorry for it 
(with attrition at least) is not deprived of the grace of the Sacrament, since 
he does not wilfully obstruct its effect. 

4 It should be noted that venial sin does not diminish the habit of sancti- 
fying grace nor the virtue of charity. See Essay xxvi, Sin and Repentance, 
pp. 948-951 ; cf. p. 575, n. i. 5 Ps. xxxiii 9. 


with good dispositions, should not be confused with that sensible 
devotion and feeling of religious exhilaration which God sometimes 
grants as a special and extraordinary grace, but which is by no means 
an essential accompaniment to the fervour of charity. 

It would be a neglect of the express words of Christ himself, as 
well as of the constant teaching of the Fathers, to omit all mention of 
the effect of the Eucharist on our bodies. Christ promises the 
glorious resurrection as one of the fruits of the Eucharist : " He who 
eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will 
raise him up at the last day." So St Ignatius of Antioch calls the 
Eucharist the " medicine of immortality/' x and St Irenaeus defends 
the doctrine of the resurrection against the Gnostics on the ground 
that our bodies have been nourished with the body and blood of 
Christ : " How can they assert that our flesh will be corrupted and 
never again be revived, when it has been nourished with the body 
and blood of Christ ? . . . Our bodies having received the Eucharist 
are no longer corruptible, but have the hope of the resurrection/' 2 
This is not to be understood as if the Eucharist produced any physical 
quality in the body by reason of which it will rise in glory, 3 but rather 
in the sense that it is supremely appropriate that the body, which has 
been sanctified by contact with this most blessed Sacrament of the 
body and blood of Christ, should be a partaker of Christ's glorious 
resurrection. The Eucharist, in the words of St Thomas, is " a 
pledge of glory to come." Hardly less general among the Fathers is 
the attribution to the Eucharist of a virtue protective against the 
attacks of concupiscence. This, likewise, is probably not to be inter- 
preted in any physical sense, except so far as the fervour of charity 
produced by the sacrament enables the soul more efficaciously to 
resist the temptations of the flesh. 

In the light of what has been said concerning the effects of the The necessity 
Eucharist it may be possible now to answer the question as to how f th * 
far the Eucharist is necessary for salvation. A proper understanding uc ans 
of the matter requires a preliminary definition of terms. In the first 
place, a thing may be necessary for salvation either as an indispen- 
sable means or merely because it is a precept which must be observed. 
In the former case even the inculpable omission of it would prejudice 
salvation, whereas if it is a matter of precept evidently only wilful 
disobedience is imputable. Moreover, a thing may be necessary for 
salvation either in actual fact, or it may be that the desire of it only 
is necessary for salvation. Thus Baptism, at least by desire, is neces- 
sary as an indispensable means for salvation. It is asked, then, is 
the Eucharist necessary for salvation ? 

Of the divine precept to receive Holy Communion there can be 
little doubt in view of the words of Christ at the Last Supper : " Do 
this in commemoration of me," and of his express warning, " except 

1 Ad Eph. t n. 20. 2 Adv. hatr., lib. iv, c. 18. 

8 Some few theologians have held this view. 


you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you shall not 
have life in you." * The command of the Church, rendering more 
definite the precept of Christ himself, that the faithful shall receive 
the Eucharist at least once a year at Paschal time 2 is no less indubi- 
table and emphatic. Moreover, it is admitted by all that the divine 
precept does not oblige those who, being either infants or otherwise 
ignorant of the precept, are incapable of obeying it, and further that 
the commandment of the Church binds only those children who have 
arrived at the age at which they are able to distinguish the Eucharist 
from ordinary food. 

But may one go further, and assert that the Eucharist is necessary, 
not only because its reception is commanded, but as an indispensable 
means for salvation ? It is quite certain, in view of the condemnation 
by the Council of Trent 3 of the contrary opinion, that the actual 
reception of the Eucharist is not necessary for the salvation of infants ; 
it is certain also that an adult who, through no fault of his own, fc died 
without ever receiving the sacrament, would not on that account be 
lost. Clearly, then, the actual reception of the Eucharist is not neces- 
sary as an indispensable means for salvation. Is the desire of it neces- 
sary ? The majority of theologians at the present day content them- 
selves with asserting the divine and ecclesiastical precept, denying 
that even the desire of the Eucharist is in any proper sense indis- 
pensable for salvation ; the only sacrament, they say, of which at least 
the desire is indispensable, is Baptism. This position is undoubtedly 
the simpler and, if the word " desire " is understood in its ordinary 
sense, unassailable. Nevertheless, the view of St Thomas is that the 
desire of the Eucharist, in a certain sense at any rate, is indispensable 
for salvation ; and since his teaching helps much to the understanding 
of the central position which the Eucharist holds among the sacra- 
ments, it deserves to be briefly expounded here. 

We must distinguish, says St Thomas, 4 between the sacrament 
itself and the effect of the sacrament. The effect of the Eucharist is 
union with the mystical body of Christ, and without such union it is 
impossible to be saved, because outside the Church there is no 
salvation. Clearly, then, that which is the proper effect of the Euchar- 
ist is indispensable for salvation. Nevertheless, it is possible to have 
the effect of a sacrament without receiving the sacrament itself, 
namely, through a desire of the sacrament. Thus one may receive 
the effect of Baptism through desiring the sacrament of Baptism. 
In like manner, to receive the proper effect of the Eucharist, namely, 
union with the mystical body of Christ, it is sufficient to have the 
desire of the Eucharist. Now the desire of the Eucharist is implicitly 
contained in Baptism, because " by Baptism a man is destined for the 

1 John vi 54. 

2 IV Lateran Council (1215) and Council of Trent (Sess. 13, c. 9). 
8 Session ai, c. 4. 

4 Summa TheoL, III, Q. Ixxiii, art. 3. 


Eucharist, and therefore by the very fact that children are baptised 
they are destined by the Church for the reception of the Eucharist ; 
and just as it is by the faith of the Church that they believe, so it is by 
the intention of the Church that they desire the Eucharist, and con- 
sequently receive its effect." The desire of the Eucharist, then, is 
necessary for salvation inasmuch as Baptism, the sacrament of re- 
generation, by reason of its essential subordination to the Eucharist 
for we die to sin that we may live to Christ implicitly destines the 
soul to partake of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. 1 

Whatever may be the solution of what is, after all, perhaps, an Frequent 
academic question, it is certainly the desire of the Church that the Communion 
faithful as long as they are in the state of grace and have the right 
intention should approach Holy Communion frequently and even 
daily. Hence this section and the essay may conveniently con- 
clude with the following extract from the decree of Pope Pius X on 
the reception of daily Communion : 

" The Council of Trent, bearing in mind the immeasurable 
treasures of divine grace which are obtained by the faithful who re- 
ceive the most holy Eucharist, says : ' The Sacred Synod desires that 
the faithful assisting at daily Mass should communicate not only by 
spiritual affection but also by the sacramental reception of the 
Eucharist.' These words clearly indicate the desire of the Church 
that all the faithful should be daily refreshed at this celestial banquet, 
and draw thereform more abundant fruits of sanctification. This 
wish is in evident harmony with the desire by which Christ our Lord 
was moved when he instituted the Divine Sacrament. For not once 
nor obscurely, but by frequent repetition, he inculcates the necessity 
of eating his flesh and drinking his blood ; particularly in the words : 
* This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers 
did eat manna and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live for 
ever.' " 


1 St Thomas is careful, however, in the same article to point out the 
difference between Baptism and the Eucharist in the matter of necessity. 
Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Christian life, and since there 
is no preceding sacrament in which the desire of baptism can be involved, 
infants can be saved only by its actual reception. 



A general ALTHOUGH it might not be quite accurate to say that some kind of 

notion of sacrificial rite forms, or has formed, an element in every one of the 

acnjice. gj. ea t religions without exception, yet it would not be far from the 

truth. Almost universally man has felt the need of entering into 

close communication with the divinity, and nearly everywhere he has 

found that the best way of satisfying this need was by means of 

sacrifice, whether he wished to appease his god, to offer him the 

highest kind of worship, to ask him for his protection, or to thank 

him for his favours. 

The offering of sacrifice corresponds with a natural prompting of 
man's heart under the influence of religion, it satisfies an appetite 
that is deep and urgent. It would seem strange, therefore, if the 
perfect religion, the religion that is the fulfilment of the law, the 
religion that is intrinsically Catholic, that is, universal, and capable 
of offering the full satisfaction to all man's needs, everywhere and 
always, were a religion without a sacrifice. Such a deficiency would 
need a lot of explaining away before it could be looked upon as other 
than a defect. Even though it be granted that the Founder and 
High Priest of this religion offered the perfect sacrifice once for all, 
it would still seem strange, human nature being what it is, if he had 
left his followers without any means of renewing this sacrifice, or if 
he had made no provision whatever for its perpetuation or its constant 

Happily the suggested deficiency is simply hypothetical. We 
have the Mass, the proper and perfect sacrifice of the New Law, 
wherein, in every place, from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof 
is offered a clean oblation to the Lord, the body and blood of Jesus 

The purpose of these pages is to justify this assertion by setting 
forth, as simply as possible, the dogmatic arguments on which it 
rests, and that done, to add a few theological considerations which 
may help to a better understanding and realisation of the meaning 
of the Mass and of its value as the central act of Catholic worship. 
Readers must not expect to find here any discussion of the many 
problems connected with the history of the Mass. Nor is it my in- 
tention to enter into any of the controversies that have raged around 
the Mass, be they controversies between Catholics and those who 
reject the Mass, or be they domestic disputes between different 



schools or parties of Catholic theologians. Again, this is not meant 
to be a devotional essay, though, of course, since all true devotion 
springs from and rests upon knowledge of the truth, every exposi- 
tion of Catholic dogma must be fundamentally and potentially devo- 
tional. My aim is simply expository, to show that the Mass is a 
sacrifice, and to set forth what that assertion means and implies. 

It might be thought that the first thing necessary in such an essay 
as this is a rigorous definition of terms ; that we ought to determine 
exactly what constitutes a sacrifice, and then go on to show that the 
Mass verifies all the conditions required. That is the usual method 
in any theological treatise, the method consecrated by generations of 
scholastic theologians. Unfortunately in the present case, if it is 
a question of an exact definition, it is impossible to find agreement 
among theologians. To attempt such a definition would be regarded, 
inevitably and rightly, as begging the question. We must content 
ourselves, therefore, with a looser notion of sacrifice, for the present, 
leaving until later a more rigorous determination of the idea, and 
for our purpose it will be enough to transcribe what the Rev. M. C. 
D'Arcy, S.J., has written in his essay, Christ, Priest and Redeemer :. 
" And so now we can enlarge the idea of sacrifice by saying that 
it is an act of homage which furthers union with God, one's 
Maker and Last End ; and the way that this is done is through 
the offering of a gift which symbolises interior oblation, and perhaps 
repentance as well. The gift is sanctified and made holy with God's 
holiness, since it passes into his possession, if it is accepted by God. 
His acceptance passes, so to speak, through the gift to the offerer, 
and the alliance or friendship is ratified by the eating, not by God, 
but by the worshipper, of what is holy with God's holiness. Sacrifice 
has thus shown itself as a mode of mediation between God and man." 


WHATEVER else the Mass may be, it is the commemoration and the The Last 
repetition of the Last Supper. It is the perpetual fulfilment of the Supper 
command given by Jesus Christ to his Apostles, and through them, 
to all his priests until the end of time : " Do this in commemoration 
of me." As to this, there is agreement, I think, among practically 
all who claim to be Christians. Hence, it is with the Last Supper 
that we must begin, and if it prove that this has a sacrificial character 
it will at once follow that the Mass also must be looked upon as a 

Only one thing needs to be noted by way of introduction, namely 
that the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence and all that it implies, 
must here be taken for granted. All this may be found in the essay 
on The Sacrament of the Eucharist, wherein also it is made clear that 


the passages from the Scriptures now to be considered must be 
understood in their obvious, literal, and realistic sense. 

In the accounts of the Last Supper left us by the Evangelists and 
St Paul two or three things stand out clearly. 

In the first place we cannot but be struck by the sacrificial nature 
and connotations of the language used. Jesus and his Apostles were 
Jews ; all the circumstances accompanying the solemn institution 
of the covenant between God and the Hebrew people were well 
known to them, the words in which it is recorded were often read 
by them or heard in their worship in synagogue and temple. In the 
Book of Exodus it is written : " And Moses wrote all the words of 
the Lord : and rising in the morning he built an altar at the foot of 
the mount, and twelve titles according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 
And he sent young men of the children of IsraeJ, and they offered 
holocausts, and sacrificed pacific victims of calves to the Lord. Then 
Moses took half of the blood, and put it into bowls ; and the rest he 
poured upon the altar. And taking the book of the covenant, he 
read it in the hearing of the people . . . and he took the blood and 
sprinkled it upon the people, and he said : This is the blood of the 
covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these 
words. " 1 When, therefore, Jesus, giving his Disciples the chalice, 
said : " Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the new testa- 
ment " 2 (or " covenant " as the Greek word may equally well be 
rendered), it is impossible to doubt that the Disciples must have re- 
called the scene described in Exodus, and realised that Jesus was 
instituting and sealing the new covenant between God and his people 
of which the old had been but the type and the promise. And as 
the old covenant had been sealed in the blood of victims offered in 
sacrifice, so it is clear that the sealing blood of the new is that of the 
victim who is the sacrifice of the new covenant. The sacrificial 
character of this blood is still further emphasised by the added 
words : " which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins," 
which proclaim the propitiatory effect of Christ's death. Even if 
it be granted that Jesus, in these words, was alluding directly and 
primarily to his approaching death upon the Cross, as to which 
commentators have disputed endlessly, it still remains true that the 
Supper itself partook of the nature of a sacrifice since Christ's true 
body and blood were there really present and really given, and were 
the immediate subject of his sacrificial words. 

Another point to be noticed is the connection or relation set up 
between the Supper and the Cross. The simplest and most direct 
way of showing this is to transcribe the texts as they stand. They 
speak for themselves. 

The Body : " This is my body which is given for you. Do this 
for a commemoration of me." 3 St Paul 4 has, " broken for you/ 1 

1 xxiv 4-8. 2 Matt, xxvi 27, 28. 

3 Luke xxii 19. j Cor. xi 24. 


The Blood : " This is my blood of the new testament which shall 
be shed for many unto remission of sins." 1 St Mark 2 leaves out 
the words, " unto remission of sins." St Luke 3 puts the same thing 
in a slightly different form : " This is the chalice, the new testament 
in my blood, which shall be shed for you," and St Paul : " This 
chalice is the new testament in my blood : this do ye, as often as 
you shall drink, for the commemoration of me," 4 and he adds his 
own comment, embracing both body and blood in one sweeping 
phrase : " For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the 
chalice, you shall shew (i.e. proclaim or celebrate, as his word really 
means) the death of the Lord, until he come." 5 

Nothing could be plainer. In a few hours Jesus was to be de- 
livered to death and was to shed his blood for men unto the forgive- 
ness of their sins ; and now in this last solemn and loving meal with 
his Disciples, he wishes, by an act of divinely conceived anticipation, 
to give them his body and blood, and to make them partakers in the 
sacrifice so close at hand. 

We must not leave this point without noting that, according to 
the Greek text, the phrase " which shall be shed " would run '* which 
is shed," for the verbal form used is the present participle. This 
reading, while possibly rendering the allusion to the Cross less 
direct, would, on the other hand, only emphasise and strengthen the 
actual and present sacrificial meaning and implication of Christ's 

Lastly, in the Supper there is found that element which was an 
integral, if not an essential part of nearly all the ancient sacrifices 
of Jews and Gentiles alike, to wit, the sacrificial meal, of which, after 
the oblation, was made, all those who had assisted at the sacred rite 
partook, eating and drinking of the gifts that had been offered. We 
need not now enquire into the various ideas that lay behind and 
prompted this custom. It is enough to remark that it existed almost 
universally, and that it has its place in the Last Supper : " Take ye 
and eat, this is my body ; take ye and drink, this is my blood of the 
new testament." It is St Paul who gives the clearest expression to 
this sacrificial element in the Last Supper, or rather, to its repetition 
in the Eucharistic celebration in the Church : " The chalice of bene- 
diction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of 
Christ ? And the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of 
the body of the Lord ? . . . Behold Israel according to the flesh ; 
are not they that eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar ? What 
then ? Do I say that what is offered in sacrifice to idols is any- 
thing ? Or that the idol is anything ? But the things which the 
heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I 
would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You 

1 Matt, xxvi 28. a xiv 24. 3 xxii 20. 

4 i Cor. xi 25. a Ibid. z6. 


cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils ; you 
cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of 
devils/' l His argument is clear, and its implication manifest. The 
Jews partake of the altar, and the heathens partake with devils, when 
they eat of the things which have been sacrificed on the altar or 
sacrificed to devils. Similarly if the Christians are partakers of the 
blood of Christ and of his body, as St Paul says they are, this can only 
be so because, in drinking and eating of them, they share in the 
sacrifice in which they are offered upon the table of the Lord. Ex- 
clude this idea of sharing in the sacrificial gifts, and his words have 
no application to the case under consideration, and his argument, 
which he puts forward as conclusive, loses all its force. 

We have then these three points or elements in the Last Supper 
as celebrated by Jesus Christ, and in its Eucbaristic repetition in the 
Church ; firstly, it is the setting up of a new covenant with God's 
people, expressed in terms that are clearly sacrificial ; secondly, it 
is the commemoration or memorial of Christ's sacrificial death on 
the Cross ; thirdly, it provides a sacrificial meal wherein we partake 
of the gifts that have been offered in sacrifice. The conclusion is 
inevitable that it is a real sacrifice, and, given the truth of the doctrine 
of the Real Presence, that it is the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of 
Jesus Christ. , 

The prophecy Passing over Hebrews xiii, 10, which, if it refers to the Eucharist 
o/Malachy ( w hi c ;h is a disputed point), is decisive as to its sacrificial character, 
we must not omit some consideration of the well-known prophecy 
of Malachy, which, from the earliest times, has been understood by 
Christian writers to be a clear foretelling of the sacrifice of the Mass. 
A full discussion of this passage must be sought elsewhere ; here 
only an outline of the argument can be given. 

The Prophet begins, after a short exordium, by reproving the 
priests of Israel for their neglect of God's commands in the matter 
of divine worship, by offering unclean and defective gifts upon the 
altar of sacrifice. God, through the Prophet's mouth, declares that 
he will no longer look with favour upon their sacrifices, and announces 
that the time is coming when, instead of these defective sacrifices 
offered at Jerusalem only, a clean oblation will be offered constantly 
and in every place unto his name. c< For from the rising of the sun 
even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in 
every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean 
oblation ; for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord 
of hosts." 2 

This clean oblation that is to be offered everywhere among the 
Gentiles is evidently something different from the Jewish sacrifices, 
which could be offered nowhere but in the Temple at Jerusalem, 
and which, since this was destroyed, have not been offered anywhere. 

1 i Cor. x 16-21. 2 Mai. i n. 


Nor can it be understood simply of the sacrifices of prayer and praise 
and thanksgiving which all worshippers of God offer continually to 
the Lord. This sense is incompatible both with the context, which 
throughout refers to real, material sacrifices only, and with the 
meaning of the words used. The Hebrew word mincha, which is 
translated oblation, nearly always has in the Old Testament the 
specific signification of unbloody sacrifice, and, though occasionally 
meaning any sort of real sacrifice, is never used to signify interior 
acts of worship or such exterior oblations as are not real sacrifices ; * 
and this may be said also of the other terms employed. 

The Prophet announces the coming abrogation of the old rites 
and the institution of a new and universal sacrifice. His hearers, of 
course, could not understand the full meaning of his words, but ever 
since the days of the Apostles, Christian writers have been unani- 
mous in interpreting them as a reference to the sacrifice of the Mass. 
The Council of Trent authoritatively confirmed this interpretation in 
its decree upon the sacrifice of the Mass : c< And this indeed is that 
clean oblation which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness or 
wickedness in those who offer ; the clean oblation which the Lord, 
speaking by Malachy, foretold would be offered in every place to his 
name, which would be great among the Gentiles. " 2 

Finally, something must be said of the argument to be drawn The order of 
from Christ's priesthood " according to the order of Melchisedech." 
The argument, as repeated in dozens of theological textbooks, may 
be thus briefly set down. Priesthood and sacrifice are correlative ; 
priests of the same order must offer sacrifice according to the same 
rite. Melchisedech offered sacrifice in bread and wine, therefore so 
did Christ. But the only time he can possibly be said to have done 
this was at the Last Supper, and therefore the Eucharist is a sacrifice. 

Intrinsically and as a purely scriptural argument this may seem 
to be defective. The Greek word translated " order " refers rather 
to rank, quality, manner, than to the sacrificial rite. To this no 
reference seems to be made either in the Psalm or in the Epistle ; 
in the latter the writer is wholly occupied with the eternity and 
superiority of Christ's priesthood as compared with that of Aaron. 
This he illustrates and explains by saying that Christ is " a priest 
according to the order of Melchisedech/' The King of Salem is 
shown to be Abraham's superior by receiving from him the tribute 
of tenths ; he is the type of the eternity of Christ's priesthood by his 
manner of appearing in the pages of Scripture, " without father, 
without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of 
days nor end of life," and therefore he is " likened unto the Son of 
God (and) continueth a priest for ever." 4 Hence those who are con- 
tent with the purely objective and apparently obvious interpretation 

1 Of. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, s.v. 

2 Session xxii, chap. i. 

s Ps. cix ; Heb. vii. 4 Heb. vii 3. 


of Scripture may reject this argument. But the Catholic has another 
criterion ; for him the Church is the only authoritative interpreter 
of Holy Writ, and her voice speaks in the constant tradition of her 
Fathers and Doctors. Looked at in this light the words under review 
appear as a convincing proof of the sacrificial character of the Last 
Supper, for, from the beginning of the second century onwards, 
hardly a Christian writer quotes them without seeing in them a 
reference to Christ's institution of the Eucharist and a demonstration 
of the sacrificial character of the Mass. As Petavius puts it : " On 
this point the ancient writers agree to such an incredible extent, that 
there can be no room for legitimate doubt in the mind of any 
Christian." x 


JUST as the religious life of the Jews had its centre in the Temple at 
Jerusalem, because there alone were offered the sacrifices that com- 
memorated the institution of the Covenant and the deliverance from 
bondage, so the religious life of Christians revolves about the Mass, 
because it is the commemoration and the perpetual reiteration of 
Christ's death on the Cross, their deliverance and redemption. It 
would, then, be remarkable if the Mass had not left a deep impress 
on the whole of Christian literature, especially on those parts of it 
that bear upon the practical life of the Church. It must, however, 
be borne in mind that we possess to-day but comparatively scanty 
remains of what must have been the abundant output of Christian 
writers who lived before the middle of the third century, and much 
of what we have is of such a character as to make any allusion to the 
details of worship most improbable. Enough, however, is left to 
enable us to ascertain with certainty the mind and teaching of the 
primitive Church. From towards the end of the third century the 
extant testimony of Christian writers is both abundant and detailed. 
It would be impossible for us to give a hundredth part of the harvest 
to be garnered from the patristic writers of the fourth, fifth, and sixth 
centuries ; nor would it serve any useful purpose, for all competent 
scholars are agreed that from the end of the third century the Catholic 
theology of the Mass was fixed as regards its substantial elements, 
and that, on all sides, it was held to be the true and real sacrifice of 
Christ's body and blood. 

St Cyprian Yet it is maintained by many that this is a perversion of the 
primitive doctrine, and the principal author of the innovation and of 
the change in the current of theological tradition is said to be St 
Cyprian. Until his time, we are told, the eucbaristic sacrifice was 
considered to be simply a spiritual sacrifice of praise and thanks- 
giving, containing no real and objective offering ; or at the most, the 

1 De Incarnatione, Bk. 12, Chap. xii. 


offering was merely one of bread and wine. He introduced the idea 
of the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood, and his influence was so 
powerful that, in a comparatively short time, the old teaching was 
forgotten and the Church was definitely committed to the new line 
of eucharistic speculation. We shall begin, therefore, with an exami- 
nation of St Cyprian's teaching. Then, working backwards, we 
hope to be able to make it clear that, instead of being an innovator, 
he was a continuator, that he added nothing to the accepted doctrine 
and did not change the current of theological teaching, but only 
stated clearly some things that others had said obscurely, and made 
some things explicit that had always been implicitly believed. 

St Cyprian's writings are full of references to the eucharistic 
sacrifice, but as a rule they are incidental allusions only or passing 
references which, though couched in most realistic language, might 
possibly be interpreted in a metaphorical sense or are not sufficiently 
clear to enable us to discover with certainty their full significance. 
We have, however, one of his letters wherein he sets out his teaching 
in considerable detail. 1 A certain bishop, Caecilius, had informed 
him that, in some places in Africa, the custom had grown up of using 
water only in the chalice in the celebration of the Eucharist, and 
sought his opinion and advice in the matter. From St Cyprian's 
lengthy answer we extract a few of the more telling passages. " Jesus 
Christ our Lord and God, who instituted this sacrifice." 2 " Nor 
can his blood, which is our redemption and our life, be discerned in 
the chalice, when the chalice lacks wine." 3 " For who is more truly 
the priest of the most high God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who 
offered sacrifice to God the Father, and offered the same as Mel- 
chisedech had offered, that is bread and wine, to wit his body and 
blood ? " 4 " Whence it appears that the blood of Christ is not 
offered if there be not wine in the chalice, nor is the Lord's sacrifice 
celebrated rightly and holily unless our oblation and sacrifice corre- 
spond with Christ's passion." 5 " Therefore, dearest brother, let 
no one think that he ought to follow the custom of those who have 
thought that water alone should be offered in the chalice of the 
Lord. The question is, whom have these followed ? For if in the 
sacrifice that Christ offered, Christ alone is to be followed, then 
indeed we must do what Christ did, and obey his command as to 
what should be done. . . . And if we are not allowed to depart 
from the least of the Lord's commands, so much the less is it allow- 
able to infringe his commands in things so high and great, in a matter 
so closely touching the very sacrament of the Lord's passion and our 
redemption. . . . For if Jesus . . . himself is the high priest of 
God the Father, and if he, in the first place, offered himself as a 
sacrifice to the Father, and then commanded this to be done in com- 
memoration of him, then, in truth, that priest truly acts as Christ's 

1 Epistola LrXIII, Ad Caecilium ; Migne, Patrologia Latina, IV, 383 & 

2 Chap. i. 3 Chap. ii. * Chap. iv. 6 Chap. ix. 


minister who imitates what Christ did, and he then offers a true and 
full sacrifice in the church to God the Father, when he offers ac- 
cording as he sees Christ to have offered. " * " And since we make 
mention of his passion whenever we offer sacrifice (for the sacrifice 
we offer is the Lord's passion), we must do nothing else but what 
he did." 2 

St Cyprian, then, holds that the Eucharist is a true and real 
sacrifice, that it was instituted and first offered by Jesus Christ at the 
Last Supper, and that in it we truly offer to God Christ's body and 
blood under the appearances of bread and wine, and that it is the 
passion or the commemoration of the passion of Christ. Such was 
the doctrine taught in Carthage in the middle of the third century, 
and no theologian of the present day teaches anything different. 
But was it new doctrine in St Cyprian's day ? 

Tertullian Let us interrogate Tertullian, the fiery Christian apologist who 

flourished in Cartilage forty years or so before St Cyprian, and who, 
after having been the foremost champion of the Church, drifted 
into the heresy of Montanism, and died no one knows how or when . 
In his writings, whether Catholic or Montanist, there is no such 
formal and direct treatment of the eucharistic sacrifice as is provided 
by St Cyprian, but allusions both to the sacrament and the sacrifice 
abound, and are nearly always couched in realistic terms that can 
leave no doubt in the impartial reader's mind as to the writer's under- 
lying belief. 

Here is his approving estimate of the conduct of pious Christian 
women : " You do not make the round of the temples, or frequent 
the games, or take part in the festival days of the Gentiles. For it 
is because of these assemblies and the wish to see and be seen that 
all kinds of vanities are publicly paraded ; . . . but you go abroad 
only for some serious (or holy, tetricd) reason ; either because some 
sick person among the brethren is to be visited, or because sacrifice 
is offered, or the word of God administered." 3 Here is the word : 
" sacrifice is offered " ; there is no explanation ; the Christian woman 
would understand. 

But the modern non-Catholic scholar often does not or will not 
see what Tertullian means. To show that the African apologist 
had no notion of an objective and real eucharistic sacrifice, he seizes 
on the following few words from the treatise Against Marcion, III, 
22 : "In every place a sacrifice is offered to my name, a clean sacri- 
fice 4 that is the proclaiming of his glory and blessings, and praises 
and hymns." 5 But the conclusion is unwarranted. Tertullian's 
interpretation of this prophecy is not meant to be either exclusive 
or comprehensive. He is making a particular point against Marcion 
and, as is his wont, gathers together all the texts he can find that can 

1 Chap. xiv. 2 Chap. xvii. 

8 De cultu feminarum, II, n (Pair. Lat., I, 1444-5). 

4 Mai. i ii. B Patr. Lat., II, 381. 


be brought to bear on it. That the eucharistic sacrifice consisted in 
something more than the singing of hymns and the praises of God 
is clear from what he says about the things that women were not 
allowed to do in church. " Let us see whether those things that 
ecclesiastical discipline prescribes concerning women are applicable 
to virgins. It is not allowed to a woman to speak in church, but 
neither to teach, nor to baptise, nor to offer (i.e. sacrifice), nor to 
claim a part in any man's duty, much less to share the duty of the 
priestly office." x But they were certainly allowed to join in the 
prayers and hymns. To offer (off err e), then, is something more than 
the giving of thanks and singing of hymns ; it was a function strictly 
reserved to priests, whose duty it was to preside at the meetings 
where the Eucharist was celebrated. 

We find many allusions to the traditional custom of celebrating 
the Eucharist for the dead and in honour of the martyrs, on their 
anniversaries, and always Tertullian's language is most definitely 
sacrificial. Passing over these, we must consider in some detail an 
illuminating passage from the De Pudicitia : 2 " And so the apostate 
will recover his former garment, being clothed again in the Holy 
Ghost, he will receive again the ring, the seal of baptism, and once 
more Christ will be slain for him/' These are the relevant words 
and, if the allusion is really to the eucharistic sacrifice, they are 
clear evidence that Tertullian, regarded it as, in some way, the re- 
iteration of Christ's death. This allusion is, however, disputed, it 
being alleged that the reference is to Hebrews vi, 6, " crucifying again 
to themselves the Son of God." 

This treatise is one of Tertullian's violent Montanist writings, 
in which he attacks the Pope for having made it known that all sorts 
of sinners, even those who had apostatised, might be reconciled to 
the Church after doing penance. Catholics, supporting the Pope, 
appealed to the parable of the prodigal son as a supreme and un- 
answerable argument. The question now in dispute is, therefore, 
the interpretation of the parable, for Tertullian recognises that, if 
it be understood to refer to the fallen Christian, his own case is 
hopeless. So he uses all his power as a rhetorical debater to show 
that it can only be applied to the heathen who, having wandered 
far from God, and spent his substance in riotous living in the dark- 
ness and corruption of paganism, comes back to the Father and is 
received by him in Baptism. " He remembers God his Father, 
having made satisfaction he returns, he receives his former garment, 
namely that state which Adam lost by his transgression ; likewise 
then he receives the first ring, by which, after being interrogated, 
he seals the compact of faith, 3 and so finally is feasted with the 
fatness of the Body of the Lord, namely, the Eucharist." 

1 De virginibus velandis (Patr. Lat., II, 95)- 

2 Chap, ix, Patr. Lat., II, 1049. 

3 This refers to the questions put to the catechumen at baptism. 

St Irenaeus 

St Justin 


Here we have the key to the meaning of the words in dispute. 
Tertullian understands the welcome given by the prodigal's father 
to his son as being realised in the two sacraments of Baptism and 
the Eucharist, but will not allow that the parable can apply to the 
penitent apostate, for, if it does, the consequences will be absurd, 
because " not only adulterers and fornicators, but idolaters and 
blasphemers and deniers of Christ, and every kind of apostate will 
be able to make satisfaction to the Father if the parable be so inter- 
preted. And in this way the whole substance of religion is really 
destroyed. For who will fear to waste what he can afterwards get 
back ? Who will take the trouble to keep for ever what he cannot 
lose for ever ? Safety in sinning means to lust after sin. And so 
the apostate will recover his former garment, being clothed again in 
the Holy Ghost ; he will receive again the ring, the seal of Baptism, 
and again Christ will be slain for him, and he will once more sit upon 
that seat from which those who are unworthily garbed, to say nothing 
of the naked, are taken by the torturers and cast out into darkness/' 

It is clear that, in this passage also, which runs on the same lines 
as the former, Tertullian is referring to the same two sacraments, 
Baptism and the Eucharist, and that he envisages the latter both as 
a sacrifice and a banquet. He regarded the Eucharist, therefore, as 
a sacrifice, which was offered upon the altar (altar e, ard) of the Lord, 
by priests (sacerdotes), the victim being Christ, and the faithful 
partaking of his body. 

St Irenaeus, who witnesses to the tradition of both East and 
West, sets forth the same teaching at the end of the second century. 
He even takes the reality of the eucharistic sacrifice as the starting- 
point of his argument against the heretics, that is, as common ground 
between himself and them. As we have not the space to quote him 
at any length, and any other sort of quotation is unsatisfactory, we 
may refer the reader to his Adversus Haereses, book IV, chapters xvii 
and xviii, and pass on at once to St Justin. 

His testimony is interesting chiefly by reason of the account he 
gives of the way the Christians carried out their liturgical worship 
at Rome in the middle of the second century. This is the earliest 
description we have of the Mass, for before this time Christian 
literature contains nothing but passing, and often obscure references. 
Though St Justin's account be well known, it will bear quotation 
here, for in it we can discover many of the elements of the liturgy 
which have remained substantially the same from his day until now. 
It is to be found in chapters Ixv to Ixvii of his first Apology, and runs 
thus : 

" We salute one another with a kiss when we have concluded the 
prayers. Then is brought to the president of the brethren bread, 
and a cup of water and wine, which he receives ; and offers up praise 
and glory to the Father of all things, through the name of His Son 
and of the Holy Ghost ; and he returns thanks at length, for our 


being vouchsafed these things by him. When he has concluded the 
prayers and thanksgiving, all the people who are present express 
their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen in the Aramaic 
language means * so be it ' ; and when the president has celebrated 
the Eucharist, and all the people have assented, they whom we call 
deacons give to each of those who are present a portion of the eu- 
charistic bread and wine and water ; and carry them to those who 
are absent. And this food is called by us the Eucharist, of which 
no one is allowed to partake unless he believes the truth of our doc- 
trines ; and unless he has been washed in the laver for the forgiveness 
of sins, and unto regeneration ; and so lives as Christ has directed. 
For we do not receive them as ordinary food, or ordinary drink ; 
but as by the Word of God Jesus our Saviour was made flesh, and 
had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also the food which was 
blessed by the prayer of the Word which proceeded from him, and 
from which our flesh and blood, by assimilation, receives nourish- 
ment, is, we are taught, both the flesh and blood of that Jesus who 
was made flesh. For the Apostles in the records which they made, 
and which are called gospels, have declared that Jesus commanded 
them to do as follows : * He took bread and gave thanks, and said, 
" This do in remembrance of me : this is my body." And in like 
manner he took the cup, and blessed it., and said, " This is my blood/* 
and gave it to them alone.' " 

This is Justin's account of the celebration of the Eucharist on 
the occasion of the baptism of neophytes. A little further on he 
speaks in a similar way but more briefly of the ordinary Sunday 
celebration in town or country. But as this introduces no new 
element, beyond the mention of the sermon, we need not quote it. 

The reader will have noticed that in the passage quoted there is 
not a word about sacrifice, and may, therefore, wonder why it has 
been given. Apart from its historical and liturgical interest as the 
first account of the Mass, it has two points of dogmatic importance. 
The first is the evident connection between the Christian Eucharist 
and the Last Supper, since St Justin explains the one by the other 
and by Christ's command to his Apostles to repeat what he did. 
The second point is the witness to the Christian belief in the Real 
Presence. The eucharistic bread and wine were, for St Justin and 
his fellow- Christians, not common food and drink, but, quite simply, 
the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Even though many have written 
much to prove that Justin could not possibly have believed in Tran- 
substantiation, his simple, straightforward profession of faith in the 
Real Presence cannot be gainsaid. We must bear this in mind in 
reading the following passages from his other work, the Dialogue 
with Trypho the Jew. 

The most notable and important is in chapter Ixi, where we 
can clearly discern the theme of the thanksgivings offered by the 
celebrant, referred to in the Apology, which are now fixed in our 


present Prefaces. " And the offering of meal which it was prescribed 
to make for lepers who had been cleansed, was the type of the bread 
of the Eucharist, which Jesus Christ our Lord taught us to offer in 
memory of the sufferings he underwent for the cleansing of men's 
souls from all iniquity ; so that we may give thanks to God for having 
created the world for us, and all things in it, for having delivered us 
from the evils that oppressed us, for having completely destroyed 
the principalities and powers, by him who was made the Suffering 
One according to his will. 

" Also concerning the sacrifices which you were wont to offer 
to him, God says, as I have mentioned already, by the mouth of 
Malachy, one of the twelve : * My will is not in you, saith the Lord, 
and your sacrifices I shall not accept from your hands. Therefore 
from the sun's rising unto its going down, my name is glorified 
among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, 
a clean sacrifice, for great is my name among the nations, says the 
Lord, while you profane it.' But of the sacrifices offered to him in 
every place by us, the nations, the sacrifices, that is to say, of the 
bread of the Eucharist, and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, of 
these he foretells when he says that we glorify his name, but you 
profane it." 

Similar passages occur in chapters Ixx and cxvii of the same 
book, and also elsewhere, which, taken together, make it clear that 
Justin looked upon the celebration of the Holy Eucharist as a real 
sacrifice, wherein are offered bread and wine which, however, are 
not common bread and wine, but the Body and Blood of Christ, of 
whose sufferings and death this sacrifice is a memorial or com- 

Still earlier Previous to St Justin we find but brief and, generally, casual 
references allusions to the Eucharist as for example, in St Clement's Letter to 
the Corinthians l and the Letters of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians 2 and 
the Philadelphia^,* and finally, in the very early document, of un- 
certain authorship and date, known as The Teaching of the Apostles. 4 ' 
Though nothing very definite is to be gathered from these scattered 
allusions, they yet all point the same way. There is not only no sign 
of any purely commemorative and non -sacrificial conception of the 
Eucharist, but there are positive indications that its celebration was 
always looked upon as a sacrificial act fulfilling the prophecy of 
Malachy. We know also that, from the first, the Christians believed 
the consecrated bread and wine to be Christ's real Body and Blood. 5 
But we cannot separate these two ideas ; they are the two indivisible 
elements of the one doctrine that the Mass is the true sacrifice of 
Jesus Christ's real Body and Blood. We may allow that there has 
been some development from Clement through Justin to Cyprian, 

1 Chaps, xl and xliv. 2 Chap. v. 

8 Chap. iv. 4 Chaps, xiv-xv. 

6 See The Sacrament of the Eucharist, pp. 848-857. 


but it has been logical and inevitable, and consisting rather in the 
clearer explication and co-ordination of these two primitive elements 
than in the addition of anything new, or the introduction of anything 
from without. 


THERE has never been a time when the Church has been untroubled The 
by heresies. They began to spring up before the Apostles we 
dead, and, in one place or another, new ones have been constantly j^ 
arising ever since. And just as heresy has been universal from the 
point of view of time, so it has been impartial in the doctrines chosen 
for attack, though it is true that some periods have been specially 
noteworthy for heresies concerning Christ, others for false teachings 
about the Trinity, others, again, for attacks upon the Papacy, or the 
Sacraments, or the nature and attributes of God. We have seen 
some indications of a eucharistic heresy in St Cyprian's time ; the 
Mass was the object of attack by the Albigenses in the twelfth century 
and again by some of Wyclif 's followers two hundred years later. 
But the great onslaught upon it was launched by the Protestant sects 
in the sixteenth century. Although the Mass was not singled out 
as a thing to be destroyed from the first, it was soon seen that there 
was no room for it in Protestantism, and that, if the religious revolt 
were to make headway and have any logical justification at all, the 
sacrifice of the Mass must be utterly abolished. No heresy can be 
logical all through, from beginning to end. That is the exclusive 
privilege of the true faith. But no heresy can be altogether illogical 
and have any chance of life, especially in an age, such as was the 
sixteenth century, when the powef of clean, straight thinking is still 
both strong and common. Therefore, when once the Protestant 
leaders had adopted the doctrine of justification by faith only, and 
had thrown over the reality of sanctifying grace as the supernatural 
life of the soul, there was nothing for it except to give up belief in 
operative and grace-producing sacraments. So the Real Presence 
and Transubstantiation had to go, and the Eucharist had to lose 
altogether its sacrificial character and be retained simply as a memorial 
of the Last Supper whereby the soul is moved to prayer and enabled 
in some way to enter into communion with and to receive Jesus 
Christ. There were also other reasons, less respectable than the 
claims of logical consistency, but into which we need not go, which 
prompted the Reformers to abolish the Mass. Hence it is not sur- 
prising that, to a great extent, belief in the Mass became the touch- 
stone of Catholic orthodoxy and that, all through the subsequent 
centuries of controversy with Protestantism, Catholic theologians 
should have used all their powers of argument and all their resources 
of learning in its defence. It was natural too that the Council of 
Trent should give to this question the most careful and minute 


consideration, focusing upon it the attention of the most brilliant 
gathering of theologians the world has seen, and debating every point 
with the greatest possible thoroughness and acuteness. The decrees 
and definitions drawn up as the outcome of the Council's delibera- 
tions not only form the Catholic's rule of faith in this matter, but 
may be taken as the foundation and starting-point of all subsequent 
theological speculation. They are the test by which any theory 
must be tried, and they are so important, so full and so carefully 
drawn that they deserve to be quoted at length. 

The Council The translation here given is taken from The Canons and Decrees 
of Trent -f tfe Sacred and Oecumenical Council of Trent, translated by the 
Rev. J. Waterworth, published in 1848. If it cannot lay claim to 
elegance it has the great merit of being faithful to the original, and, 
indeed, is as near to being a literal rendering as is possible in readable 
English. These decrees and definitions were approved during the 
twenty-second session of the Council held in September 1532. 

" Chapter I. On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of 
the Mass. Forasmuch as, under the former Testament, according 
to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, there was no perfection, because 
of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood ; there was need, God, 
the Father of mercies, so ordaining, that another priest should rise, 
according to the order of Melchisedech, our Lord Jesus Christ, who 
might consummate, and lead to what is perfect as many as were to 
be sanctified. He, therefore, our God and Lord, though he was 
about to offer himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the 
Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption ; 
nevertheless, because that his priesthood was not to be extinguished 
by his death, in the Last Supper, on the night in which he was be- 
trayed that he might leave to his own beloved spouse the Church , 
a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that 
bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be 
represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of 
the world, and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of these 
sins which we daily commit declaring himself constituted a priest 
for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech, he offered up to 
God the Father his own body and blood under the species of bread 
and wine ; and, under the symbols of those same things, he delivered 
(his own body and blood) to be received by his Apostles, whom he 
then constituted priests of the New Testament ; and by those words, 
* Do this in commemoration of me/ he commanded them and their 
successors in the priesthood, to offer (them) ; even as the Catholic 
Church has always understood and taught. For, having celebrated 
the ancient Passover, which the multitude of the children of Israel 
immolated in memory of their going out of Egypt, he instituted the 
new Passover (to wit), himself to be immolated, under visible signs, 
by the Church through (the ministry of) priests, in memory of his 
own passage from this world unto the Father, when by the effusion 


of his own blood he redeemed us, and delivered us from the power 
of darkness, and translated us into his kingdom. And this is indeed 
that clean oblation, which cannot be defiled by any un worthiness, 
or malice of those that offer (it) ; which the Lord foretold by 
Malachias was to be offered in every place, clean to his name, which 
was to be great among the Gentiles ; and which the Apostle Paul, 
writing to the Corinthians, has not obscurely indicated, when he 
says, that they who are defiled by the participation of the table of 
devils, cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord ; by the table, 
meaning in both places the altar. This, in fine, is that oblation 
which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices, during the period 
of nature, and of the law ; inasmuch as it comprises all the good thiixgs 
signified by those sacrifices, as being the consummation and perfection 
of them all. 

" Chapter II. That the sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both 
for the living and the dead. 

" And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated 
in the Mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an 
unbloody manner, who once offered himself in a bloody manner on 
the altar of the cross ; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is 
truly propitiatory and that by means thereof this is effected, that we 
obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh 
unto God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright 
faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the obla- 
tion thereof, and granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgives 
even heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, 
the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered 
himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. 
The fruits indeed of which oblation, of that bloody one to wit, are 
received most plentifully through this unbloody one ; so far is this 
(latter) from derogating in any way from that (former oblation). 
Wherefore, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and other 
necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are 
departed in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified, is it rightly 
offered, agreeably to a tradition of the Apostles. " 

Passing over tlie other chapters as less important to our present 
purpose, we transcribe the following canons wherein the Protestant 
errors are condemned. 

" Canon i If any one saith, that in the Mass a true and proper 
sacrifice is not offered to God ; or, that to be offered is nothing else 
but that Christ is given us to eat ; let him be anathema. 

" Canon ii. If any one saith, that by those words, Do this for 
a commemoration of me, Christ did not institute the Apostles priests ; 
or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer his own 
body and blood ; let him be anathema. 

" Canon iii. If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the Mass is 
only a sacrifice of praise and of thanksgiving ; or that it is a bare 


commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not 
a propitiatory sacrifice ; or, that it profits him only who receives ; 
and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, 
pains, satisfactions and other necessities ; let him be anathema. 

" Canon iv. If any one saith, that, by the sacrifice of the Mass 
a blasphemy is cast upon the most holy sacrifice of Christ consum- 
mated on the cross ; or, that it is thereby derogated from ; let him 
be anathema." 

Matters of These decrees and canons contain the whole of the Church's 

debate defined, dogmatic teaching on the sacrifice of the Mass. No one 

can be a Catholic who knowingly denies any of the doctrinal points 
here made, and in later sections we shall have something to say of 
each of them. But a careful reading will at once show that they 
do not answer all the questions that occur to the mind, and that 
they by no means shut the door upon theological speculation. 
Indeed, the centuries that have passed since the Council was held 
have been remarkable for the amount, the variety, the intensity and 
the liveliness of Catholic theological speculation upon the Mass. 
From this point of view we may divide the time roughly into two 
periods. In the first, immediately succeeding the Council, the 
theologians were moved mainly by defensive and controversial 
reasons, and had their eyes always fixed upon the necessities of the 
anti-Protestant campaign ; whereas in the second and present 
period, which has begun only in comparatively recent years, the in- 
terest of the theologians has coincided with the wonderful modern 
revival of Eucharistic devotion, and the mainspring of their specula- 
tions is their desire to increase and more solidly to establish that 
devotion by giving the faithful a better and deeper knowledge of 
and insight into the mystery of the Mass. 

Yet in both periods, the chief matter of debate is the same, in 
spite of the diversity of motive. For the Council of Trent, while 
clear and definite in its statement that the Mass is a true and real 
and propitiatory sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, makes 
no attempt to prove it except by arguments drawn directly from 
authority and revelation. This mode of procedure is traditional 
with the Councils of the Church which are, as regards their authori- 
tative decrees, teaching bodies and not theological debating societies. 
The lengthy and minute debates that precede the final casting and 
conciliar approval of the decrees are in the nature of private dis- 
cussions, having no authority beyond that of the theologians taking 
part in them. Hence it is left to the theologians to find a rational 
justification of the dogmas defined, to give exact definitions of the 
terms employed and to work out scientific proofs of the doctrines, in 
so far as these are capable of being thus proved. In the present case 
the question to be settled is, how exactly is the Mass a sacrifice, in what 
way and in what particular action does the Mass verify the definition 
and fulfil all the necessary conditions of a real, propitiatory sacrifice ? 


In the next section we shall set forth briefly some few of the 
many ways in which theologians have tried to answer this question. 


IT is impossible to give more than a sketch of three or four of the 
principal theories about the way in which the Mass verifies the 
definition of a sacrifice, which have at various times found favour 
with Catholic theologians of repute. Moreover, in a subject of such 
difficulty, which is the subject of such lively debate, it would not be 
seemly in such an essay as this, for the writer to put forward any 
theory as definitely preferable to all others, whatever may be his 
own opinions or convictions in the matter. He may, however, be 
allowed to state the objections which seem fatal to some theories, 
and which, in the course of time, have caused them to be abandoned 
by practically all theologians to-day. 

The first difference of opinion to be noted refers to the part of The essential 
the Mass wherein lies the essential element of sacrifice. According P^ rt f tjie 
to some it is contained wholly within the consecration, others have 
thought that it consists in the consecration together with the com- 
munion, while a few have gone so far as to look upon the communion 
alone as the sacrificial act. It is hardly necessary to discuss this last 
point, since it is agreed by practically all theologians to-day that, 
although the communion belongs to the integrity or completeness 
of the sacrificial rite, it does not form part of the essential sacrificial 
act. In other words, although Christ's body and blood are offered 
in sacrifice, in order that they may be afterwards partaken of by the 
faithful, or by the priest alone, in a sacrificial banquet of communion 
with God, and although sacrifice and banquet are two parts of one 
liturgical rite, yet they are two separate acts, differing from one 
another, not only by the separation of time, but also by a difference 
of nature. 

Without going further into this, and taking it as settled that, in 
the Mass, it is the twofold consecration and transubstantiation of the 
bread and wine which alone constitute the essential act of the sacrifice, 
we go on to look at some of the theories put forward to show how 
this is so. 

The line of argument adopted by many theologians runs some- The theory of 
what in this way. In any real sacrifice the victim or thing offered ^^ 
suffers some kind of destruction. So the animals offered under the 
Jewish law were killed, the libations of wine were poured out upon 
the ground, thus being rendered unfit for consumption, and under- 
going practical destruction, the fruits of the earth were either burned 
or set aside and not devoted to common use, thus being given over to 
what may be said to be equivalent to destruction. But in the Mass 
there is a real sacrifice of Christ's body and blood. Therefore there 


must be some kind of destruction of Christ's body and blood. It is 
abundantly clear that Christ cannot suffer any real death or destruc- 
tion in the Mass, and so the theologians* efforts were wholly given 
to showing that he undergoes something more or less equivalent to 
a sort of destruction. 

It was pointed out, for example, that transubstantiation puts him 
upon the altar in the form of food and drink destined for consump- 
tion, which almost amounts to destruction. Again, the suggestion 
was made that, in the consecrated elements, Jesus Christ, though 
indeed really and wholly present as living man and God, is yet living 
a special kind of life which is on a lower plane than his glorious life 
in heaven, and in which he is deprived of the natural exercise of his 
human, physical faculties ; and this condition of reduced existence 
may be said to be equivalent to destruction, since it is the utmost 
limit to which he can go in this direction. 

Although these theories are quite orthodox and may be defended, 
there are few to uphold them to-day. The first great objection 
against them springs from a common -sense idea of the value of words. 
It is seen and recognised that the processes or conditions mentioned 
cannot be said to constitute a destruction or anything equivalent 
thereto, except by an abuse of terms which robs them of any real 
value and is dangerous to true thinking. 

A second objection goes deeper. These explanations rest upon 
the presupposition that transubstantiation is an action that, somehow 
or other, affects Christ, does something to him. But the best theo- 
logical thought of the Church, the " classical theology " of St Thomas 
Aquinas, will not allow this, holding, instead, that the process or 
action of transubstantiation touches and affects only the substances 
of bread and wine, Christ's body and,blood being simply the finishing 
point of the process, and remaining in themselves wholly unchanged 
and unaffected. 

A subtle Under the force of these objections and others which we need 

variant not set d owri) a m0 re refined and subtle variant of the " destruc- 
tionist " theory has been worked out. This starts from the fact 
that a sacrifice, just as a sacrament, comes under the category of 
signs, and draws much of its strength from the Catholic doctrine 
of eucharistic natural concomitance, which is fully explained in the 
essay on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. 

Here is a brief exposition of the theory. In the consecration of 
the bread, though Christ is made present in his integrity as man 
and God, yet, so far as the words of consecration " This is my 
body " are operative of themselves, only his body is made present 
on the altar. The presence of his blood, soul, and divinity, is the 
effect, not of the words of consecration, but of natural concomitance, 
the result, that is, of his being a Irving Person, no longer subject to 
death or mutilation. Likewise, in the consecration of the wine, the 
words used are operative of themselves to the extent of making his 


blood alone to be present, the presence of the other elements of the 
living Christ being again due to concomitance. The sacramental 
effect of the twofold consecration, therefore, that is, its effect in so 
far as it is a sign seen and heard, is the separation of the body from 
the blood. This, it must be most carefully noted, is not a real separa- 
tion. It is only a sacramental or symbolical separation. But, 
it is contended, in the case of a victim who cannot possibly 
be really immolated or killed, and who is offered in sacrifice, not 
under his own human form and appearance, but only under the 
forms and appearances of bread and wine, such a sacramental 
separation of body and blood, such a symbolical immolation or 
killing, is quite enough to constitute a real sacrifice of that victim. 
It is a real sacramental representation and symbolical re-enactment, 
in which the same victim is actually present, of the immolation con- 
summated on Calvary, and this fully entitles it to be regarded as a 
real sacrifice. 

There is much to be said for this theory, which has many 
supporters at the present day. Of all the theories involving some 
kind of destruction of the victim as a necessary condition, it is 
certainly the most spiritual in its conception, and the most closely 
in accord with the theological teaching of St Thomas on Transub- 

As the reader will have noticed, all these theories look upon the ^ e theory 
Last Supper, and therefore upon the Mass, as a sacrifice complete that the 
in itself, though subordinated and relative to the sacrifice of Calvary. ^f^ r and 
But of recent years another opinion has been put forward, and *$ fo' 
warmly supported in some quarters as it has been strongly opposed colly one 
in others, which considers the Last Supper and Calvary as the two Sacri fi ce 
component and complementary parts of but one and the same com- 
plete sacrifice. At the Last Supper, so this opinion has it, Christ as 
Priest made to God the offering of himself as the victim destined for 
immolation on Calvary. Thus the sacrifice was begun. This act of 
oblation continued in being, active and operative, throughout his 
Passion. The shedding of his blood and his death on the cross 
sealed and crowned this act of his will, and the sacrifice was thus 
consummated by this actual and physical immolation of the victim. 
Now, the only difference between the Mass and the Last Supper is 
that, while the latter was the offering of the victim who was about 
to be immolated, the former is the offering of the same victim who 
has already been immolated. The Last Supper was the ritual 
oblation looking forward to the future real immolation, the Mass is 
the ritual oblation looking backwards to the real immolation once 
for all completed. The Last Supper was the consecration to God 
of the victim about to suffer, the Mass is the continued presentation 
to God of the victim who has suffered. 

This is an attractive explanation which solves many difficulties 
and has gained many friends. But it has been hotly attacked, 


mainly on the ground that it does not fully satisfy all the implica- 
tions of the Tridentine decrees. As, however, we have no intention 
of entering into these domestic theological controversies, we cannot 
discuss the pros and cons of this question. 

A further In common with the other explanations previously advanced, 

theory ^ s Qne a j SQ re q u j res ^ immolation of the divine victim as a con- 

dition for the complete sacrifice, though, differing from them, it does 
not find any such immolation in the Mass, which it regards as the 
oblation of the victim already immolated. At the risk of wearying 
my readers, I must now speak of yet another theory which differs 
from all these, in that, while recognising the value of the victim's 
immolation, it does not look upon it as essential to sacrifice. This 
explanation considers sacrifice to consist essentially in the ceremonial 
offering of a gift to God, as an expression or symbol of homage, 
petition, thanksgiving, repentance and so forth. By offering a gift 
to God is meant handing it over wholly to him, for his possession, 
use, and service, while the word ceremonial implies that the complete 
handing over of the gift must be outwardly and suitably expressed. 
Hence arises the common, though not universal, element of de- 
struction or immolation, since ordinarily nothing expresses so suit- 
ably as this, the fact that the gift has passed altogether from man's 
possession and service into God's. 

Now, from the first moment of his Incarnation, Jesus Christ 
consecrated his manhood to God, giving it wholly into his possession, 
for his use and service, to do his will in all things, by an act of his 
human will that was perfect from the first and irrevocable. Here 
was the offering of a gift to God, but not yet a sacrifice because not 
yet a ceremonial offering. He first gave outward and suitable ritual 
expression to the offering at the Last Supper, when he took bread 
and wine and spoke the words, This is my body given for you, This 
is the chalice of my blood shed for you. And so he then offered 
sacrifice. Again on Calvary, by delivering himself into his enemies' 
hands and allowing them to shed his blood and take his life, he gave 
outward and suitable expression to the continuing act of perfect 
offering, and therefore offered sacrifice. Not another sacrifice, since 
it is the same offering differently expressed, and the Last Supper and 
Calvary have a unity of signification. But when he began his glorious 
life in heaven he did not give up his priesthood, nor did he retract 
or alter the act by which he consecrated his manhood wholly to 
God's service ; his manhood is still offered and given to God to do 
his will in all things, it is God's possession. And in every Mass he 
again gives ceremonial expression to this continuing act in the pre- 
sentation of his body and blood under the forms of bread and wine, 
and the words of consecration. Thus the Mass fulfils all the con- 
ditions and contains all the elements of a true and real sacrifice. 
There is no intention of discussing the merits of this theory, but 
it may be pointed out that it seems to escape the inconveniences 


attaching to the view mentioned in, Christ as Priest and Redeemer* and 
to satisfy all that is implied in the decrees of Trent as set out above. 

Some readers may be surprised and even disturbed by the exist- Oneness of 
ence of such a wide diversity of conflicting views on a matter 
great importance. It may seem to them that the oneness of faith 
claimed by the Church as her exclusive possession is not the perfect 
thing it should be. But, in truth, there is no ground for concern. 
Examination of the various theories shows that all are based upon 
the same universally accepted truths. When the Church, in her 
definitions of doctrine, uses such terms as substance, person, sacri- 
fice, and so forth, she does not, as a rule, intend to give diem a strictly 
determined scientific meaning, but only the meaning they have in the 
current speech of men of good education. The same word may 
mean something a little more definite and exact to a philosopher 
than to the educated man who has not made a special study of 
philosophy, but in a definition of doctrine the philosopher's extra 
exactness and definiteness is not included. 

So in the present instance, not only do all Catholic theologians 
accept whole-heartedly the Tridentine definitions and decrees, but 
all understand them in the same way as the Council meant them to 
be understood. Oneness of faith is thus fully safeguarded. Differ- 
ences begin to show themselves only when theologians, in a legitimate 
and, generally, praiseworthy endeavour to probe deeper into the re- 
cesses of revealed truth, or with the object of showing how one truth 
exactly fits in with another, or again, with the laudable motive of 
defending the faith against attack or making it more attractive to the 
believer and stronger in its appeal to his mind, embark upon the 
scientific search after and explanation of the how and why of the 
doctrine. But these differences do not touch the faith. Moreover, 
every truly Catholic theologian, as soon as he sets out upon these 
speculations, fully recognises his constant liability to error ; he speaks 
under correction and in a spirit of humble diffidence, and though 
he may defend with ardour his own opinions against those of other 
theologians, he is always ready to give them up should it be proved 
that their logical outcome would be inconsistent with revealed truth, 
or should competent authority decide that it is dangerous or im- 
prudent to hold them. 

We have now to examine some further questions of importance 
contained in the Tridentine decrees or arising therefrom. 



THE Council of Trent in the second chapter of the decree set out Christ 
above states that, in the Mass " the victim is one and the same, the 
same (person) now offering by the ministry of priests, who then 

1 Essay xiv, pp. 486-489. 


offered himself on the cross." At every Mass, then, Jesus Christ is 
the High Priest who offers the sacrifice. This is clear from the fact 
that, as the Fathers are never tired of pointing out, the priest, when 
he comes to the consecration, the very act of sacrifice, no longer uses 
his own words, or a prayer composed by men, or even the words of 
the Evangelist, but Christ's own words, spoken in the first person, 
" This is my body, this is the chalice of my blood." He speaks these 
words in the person and power of Christ, and through him Christ 
speaks and offers the sacrifice. It is not necessary to postulate that, 
at every Mass that is offered daily, Jesus Christ makes a fresh act 
of self-oblation, though this is maintained by some theologians. It 
is quite enough that he should have made this act once, since, made 
definitely for once and always, never retracted, it remains forever 
operative and effective throughout all time. The practical value and 
application of this truth will appear later. 

The Church But Jesus Christ is not the only one who offers this sacrifice. 
and its r^j^ Council of Trent says, in the same place, that the Church offers 

offer eTS it, through the ministry of priests. Here is a great truth, the con- 
sequences of which are often but little understood or realised by the 
faithful, much to the detriment of their spiritual life. It is the direct 
outcome of that other great truth that Jesus Christ and all the 
members of his Church form but one body, of which he is the head. 
For a full exposition of this teaching readers are referred to The 
Mystical Body of Christ* All that needs now to be said is that the 
sacrament of Baptism effects a real incorporation with Christ, and 
in him a real brotherhood with one another ; that all thus incor- 
porated, unless separated by mortal sin, are animated and vivified by 
the same principle of supernatural life, which is his Spirit, the Spirit 
of charity, the living soul of the Church ; and that all, therefore, 
being in him, and he in them, being branches springing from and 
attached to the same trunk, share necessarily in the life of the Head, 
and are united with him in all his priestly work and functions. 

Hen,ce when Christ exercises his priestly ministry, and renewing 
the oblation of his sacrifice, offers it once again in homage to the 
adorable Trinity, he does not and cannot act alone, but we act with 
him, all the members of his Church, each according to his own 
degree of participation in Christ's life and priestly office. Hence the 
individual priest who celebrates the Mass does not offer the sacrifice 
as an individual, nor even simply as the minister of Jesus Christ, 
God and Man, but rather as the minister of Christ, eternal High 
Priest and inseparable head of his mystical body, the Church, which 
he wedded to himself through and in the sacrifice of Calvary to be 
the partner in his eternal priesthood. 

The liturgical prayers recited during Mass make it quite clear 
that it is the whole Church that offers the sacrifice. So, for example, 
just before the consecration the priest says : " We therefore beseech 

1 Essay xix. 


thee, O Lord, to be appeased, and to receive this offering which we, 
thy servants, and thy whole household do make unto thee," and then, 
" This our offering, do thou, O God, vouchsafe in all things to bless, 
consecrate, approve, make reasonable and acceptable, that it may 
become for us the body and blood of thy most beloved Son, our 
Lord Jesus Christ." And as a last example take the prayer said 
immediately after the consecration, when Jesus Christ is now present 
upon the altar : " Wherefore, O Lord, we, thy servants, as also thy 
holy people, calling to mind the blessed passion of the same Christ, 
thy Son, our Lord, and also his rising up from hell, and his glorious 
ascension into heaven, do offer unto thy most excellent majesty of 
thine own gifts bestowed upon us, a clean victim, a holy victim, a 
spotless victim, the holy bread of life everlasting, and the chalice 
of eternal salvation." 

In the light of this truth we can understand those words of St 
Peter : "Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a 
holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by 
Jesus Christ . . . but you are a chosen generation, a kingly priest- 
hood, a holy nation, a purchased people." x The Apostle is not 
using the language of pious hyperbole, or even of metaphor, but of 
strict and literal truth ; all the members of the Church do form a 
holy and kingly priesthood because they are a purchased people, 
purchased with the blood that the royal victim shed and the kingly 
priest offered, and by baptism raised to membership in his body and 
participation in his priesthood ; and, therefore, taking their part 
with him in the continual offering of his sacrifice. So also St John 
speaks of " Jesus Christ who . . . hath washed us from our sins in 
his own blood, and hath made us a kingdom and priests to God and 
his Father." 2 Whence also it follows that every Mass is pleasing 
to God and an acceptable sacrifice, not only because it is offered by 
the spotless High Priest, Jesus Christ, but also because it is offered 
by the whole Church, in whom the Spirit of holiness always dwells. 
The unworthiness, even possibly the rank wickedness of the in- 
dividual priest who celebrates, can neither pollute the victim he 
offers, nor sully the pure intention and the holy disposition of the 
sacrificing Church whose minister he is. 

But, although the sacrifice is offered by the whole Church in Various 
common, it by no means follows that every individual member of the ^f^ e ^ ticipa 
Church has the same part in the offering, or an equal participation *&* iapa 
in the ministerial office, with regard to every, or indeed, to any 
Mass that is celebrated, or, we may add (though of this something 
must be said later), an equal share in the fruits of the Mass. 

The priest naturally holds the first place. We are speaking, of The Priest 
course, of the dignity of his office and of his official position, not of his 
personal character or merit, of his personal holiness or the opposite. 

1 1 Peter ii 5 and 9. * Apoc. i 5-6. 


Whether he be far advanced in sanctity, or but a very ordinary good 
man, or even if his soul be stained with many grievous sins, his 
official character and dignity are not affected, nor is his official close- 
ness to Christ, as his immediate minister, lessened. It is through 
his mouth that Christ speaks, through his actions that Christ becomes 
present on the altar, in his hands that he is lifted up, through him 
that the sacrifice and offering of Calvary are re-enacted. Moreover, 
he has been specially chosen, set aside and consecrated to represent 
the Church, and has been given thereby a very special share in 
Christ's royal priesthood. Hence many of the prayers at Mass are 
said by him in the first person, and often he asks God to purify his 
heart that the offering may be made more worthily. " Brethren, " 
he says, turning to the people, " pray that my sacrifice and yours 
may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty " ; to which the 
answer comes, " May the Lord receive the sacrifice at thy hands, to 
the praise and glory of his own name, to our own benefit and to that 
of all his holy Church." And again at the end he prays, " May my 
worship and bounden duty be pleasing to thee, O holy Trinity ; and 
grant that the sacrifice which I have offered all unworthy in the sight 
of thy majesty may be received by thee and win forgiveness from 
thy mercy for me and for all those for whom I have offered it up." 
Those who Next in order to the priest comes the person (or persons) who 

^y providing the material elements of the sacrifice and making pro- 
vision for the support of the clergy who offer it, enables it to be 

For many centuries it was the custom for the faithful to supply 
the clergy in kind with all that was necessary for their support and 
for the exercise of worship. They brought the bread and wine that 
were used in the sacrifice of the Mass, and other gifts also which 
were needed by those who, being consecrated to the service of the 
altar, were forbidden by the Church's law to support themselves by 
trade and commerce. What was left, after the needs of the clergy 
were satisfied, was applied to the support of the poor, of whom 
some were to be found attached to and dependent upon every church. 
Gradually, as the circumstances of life changed, offerings in money 
took the place of gifts in kind. Now, in order that Mass may be 
offered, it is not only necessary that bread and wine should be avail- 
able, but also that there should be a priest who, as much as anyone 
else, needs to be fed and clothed and housed. All therefore who 
contribute to his support and to the upkeep of the church wherein 
he ministers, and the sacred vessels and vestments which he uses, 
and which are necessary for the celebration of Mass, or for its splen- 
dour and beauty, or at least its decent and reverent celebration, have 
a special part in the Masses offered by him. 

But with regard to any particular Mass the foremost place among 
all who share in the offering of it is taken by the one who most 
directly and immediately provides for its celebration by giving the 

stipend fixed by custom or law, which is to be reckoned as taking 
the place of the gifts that used formerly to be made. That they who 
make these gifts or contribute an equivalent sum, are to be con- 
sidered as having a real part in the offering of the sacrifice, as being 
truly co-offerers with the priest, is attested from the earliest times. 
So we find St Cyprian upbraiding a wealthy but mean woman who 
came to Mass on Sundays, bringing no offering but receiving Com- 
munion. " You come to Mass without a sacrifice, when you take 
part of the sacrifice which a poor man has offered," I referring in the 
final words, not to the priest, but to the poor man who had supplied 
the necessary elements for the sacrifice ; while St Gregory the Great 
speaks of a man " for whom on certain days his wife was accustomed 
to offer sacrifice.'' 2 

The provision of the necessary elements for the sacrifice confers 
on the giver a right to the disposal of some part of the fruits of the 
sacrifice, of which, however, we shall speak later on. 

Little more needs to be said on this point. It is evident that Those present 
those who are present at a Mass, following its action and prayers and at Mass 
uniting their intention with that of the priest, and that of the person 
who has given the stipend, enter into its offering more closely and 
nearly than the absent, while if there be among these latter any who 
actually advert to a Mass that is being celebrated and, in spirit, 
take their stand before the altar, they, of course, take a higher place 
as co-offerers than others who give no thought to it. Those, there- 
fore, who, through illness or some other cause, are prevented from 
going to Mass on Sundays and holy days, or are excused from -at- 
tendance, ought to try to be present in spirit, and, if possible, follow 
the course of the Mass at home so as to have as great a share as 
possible in its offering and to suffer as little loss as may be from their 
enforced absence. 

Before going on to speak of the fruits of the Mass and of the ends Our share 
for which it is offered, we may say something here of another matter in . Christ's 
which, though not unimportant, is too often neglected, even by v * cttm 
devout and instructed Catholics. 

This also, just as the foregoing, is a truth that follows directly 
upon the fact of our incorporation with Jesus Christ, of our being 
one with him in his mystical body the Church, of which he is the 
head. As, through this oneness with him, we share in his priest- 
hood and in its exercise, so likewise we are one with him in his role 
of victim, and therefore, in the Mass, when he offers himself and 
we, sharing his priesthood, offer him, so also he offers us as partners 
in his victimhood, and we likewise offer ourselves with him. It 
is well worth while to examine this truth a little more closely and to 
note some of its consequences and implications. 

It is St Paul who, in a phrase as startling as any he ever penned, 
reveals to us this truth. " Who now rejoice in my sufferings for 

1 De opere et eleemosyna, chap. xv. 2 Dialog. , bk. IV, chap. Ivii. 


you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of 
Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church/' x Were 
Christ's sufferings, then, incomplete or insufficient ? Is it not the 
constant teaching of the sacred Scriptures, repeated by all the 
Fathers and by all theologians, that his sufferings were superabundant, 
and that the least of them would have been more than enough to 
make full satisfaction for all the sins of the whole human race ? 
Assuredly, but in saying that we have only touched the fringe of the 
mystery. To stop here is to leave out of account the great truth 
underlying St Paul's words, the truth of which he never tires, the 
oneness of Christ the head, and his body the Church, whereby in all 
things there must be unity and correspondence between his life and 

Hence although he paid in full the debt of satisfaction due to the 
divine Majesty, his members have still to suffer in order that Christ's 
body may be in harmony with the Head. The Church must live the 
life of her Head, sharing in his sufferings in order to share in his 
glory. He has been offered as a victim, and every day he reiterates 
the offering so that we, his members, may make it with him, and 
therefore we must also bear our measure of suffering with him, if 
we wish to be united with him and collaborate in his sacrifice. To 
live a true Christian and Catholic life involves necessarily some 
suffering and mortification, such as prayer, fasting, abstinence, 
purity, the sanctification of Sunday, the avoidance of occasions of 
sin, without speaking of such special sufferings as sickness, poverty, 
bereavements and so forth. They who refuse to accept these morti- 
fications refuse to suffer with Christ, refuse to offer sacrifice with his 
mystical body, and shirk their participation with him in his role as 
victim. On the other hand, they who accept them gladly and 
generously, thereby fill up in their flesh " those things that are 
wanting of the sufferings of Christ." " And if one member suffer 
anything, all the members suffer with it/' 2 so since Christ and the 
Church are one body, when we his members suffer, he suffers with 
us. Not of course in the sense that he can experience or feel our 
sufferings, but in so far as he reckons them as his own, since he lives 
in his members " I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me " 3 
so that it can truly be said that his Passion will continue until the 
end of time, so long as there is still one suffering member of his 
mystical body. 

Hanging on the Cross, he looked down the ages and embracing 
in his outstretched arms all who were to be his brethren, he offered 
them with himself, their sufferings with his own in full and con- 
summated homage to his Father. And as his prophetic vision is 
fulfilled in the unrolling of the years, we, his members, offering 
ourselves with him in the Mass, " fill up those things that are want- 
ing in the sufferings of Christ." " As the church is the body of this 

1 Col. i 2,4. 2 i Cor. xii z6. 3 Gal. ii 20. 


head " (Christ), says St Augustine, " through him she learns to offer 
herself." 1 His mystical body forms the " universal sacrifice," to 
use St Augustine's phrase, which the whole Church offers through 
the High Priest, therefore St Paul beseeches his readers to offer their 
bodies " a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God." 2 The same truth 
is enshrined in the prayers of the liturgy, wherein the Secret for St 
Paul of the Cross (April 28th) runs, " May these mysteries of thy 
passion and death, O Lord, bring upon us that heavenly fervour with 
which holy Paul, when he offered them up, presented his body as a 
living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to thee." 

The practical consequences of this truth are clear. We need do 
no more than point out how important it is that the faithful should 
join all their sufferings with those of Jesus Christ, in order that, 
being offered with his, they may become truly sacrifices, being in- 
corporated in and absorbed by the one infinite sacrifice offered by 
him in praise and satisfaction to God. And so we see again that the 
Mass is the centre of the Christian life, because in it the whole Church 
and every individual member share with Christ in the exercise of his 
two highest human activities and offices, in his royal priesthood, and 
in his victimhood, whereby he redeemed the world. 



TURNING back once more to the decrees of the Council of Trent, we 
find it laid down in the third Canon that the Mass is not only a 
sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but also a propitiatory sacrifice, 
and that it is rightly offered for the living and the dead, for sins, 
pains, satisfactions and other necessities. And in the second chapter 
we read that " the holy synod teaches that this sacrifice is truly 
propitiatory, and that by means thereof this is effected, that we ob- 
tain mercy, and find grace in, seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto 
God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright faith, 
with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation 
thereof, and granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgives even 
heinous crimes and sins. . . . Wherefore, not only for the sins, 
punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who 
are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ, and who 
are not as yet fully purified, it is rightly offered, agreeably to a tradition 
of the Apostles." 

It will be noticed that the Council in its decrees lays but little Praise and 
stress upon the Mass as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, but Thanksgiving 
gives nearly all its attention to its quality and its effects as a sacrifice 
of propitiation. The reason of this is wholly in the circumstances 
of the time. The Reformers rejected the Mass but kept a ceremonial 

1 City of God, Bk. X, chap, xx ; cf. ibid., chap. vi. 

2 Rom. xii i. 


celebration of the Lord's Supper, which they were quite ready to 
call a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. On this point there was 
no quarrel between them and the Church, and therefore the Council, 
concerned almost wholly with dogmas that were denied or disputed, 
made but passing mention of it. 

But we cannot pass it by so lightly. Praise or adoration ot Grod 
and thanksgiving to him are man's first and fundamental duty, apart 
from all question of sin and satisfaction. Adam before he fell was 
bound to adore God and thank him, and the all-holy Jesus Christ 
was not, in so far as his human nature is concerned, exempt from this 
duty. It is an essential condition of the relation between the creature 
and the Creator, a condition that can never fail or be removed. 
" The heavens and the earth are full of thy glory," and the life of 
the angels and saints in heaven is one never-ending act of adoration 
and praise and thanks. . 

Also it is clear that we are bound to offer God the highest adora- 
tion and the best thanksgiving of which we are capable and to ex- 
press them in the most perfect manner possible. And for this end 
nothing is so well adapted as the offering of sacrifice. As St Thomas 
puts it : " Since it is natural to man to attain to knowledge through 
the medium of his senses, and most difficult for him to rise superior 
to the things of sense, God has provided him with a way of using 
these things for the commemoration of the things of God, so that, 
the human mind being incapable of the immediate contemplation of 
God, his attention may be the better directed towards divine things. 
For this reason God instituted visible sacrifices, which man offers 
to him, not because God has any need of them, but so that it may 
be made manifest to man that he must direct himself and all that he 
has to God as to his last end, and the creator and ruler and lord of 
all things." x And again, " Among those things that appertain to 
worship sacrifice holds a place apart . . . for the outward sacrifice 
is the manifestation of the true inward sacrifice whereby man offers 
himself to God, as the first cause of his being, as the principle of 
his activity, and the object of his beatitude." 2 

But no outward or inward sacrifice that mere man can offer is 
worthy of God, none can give to him the homage that is his right ; 
even were man sinless, the abyss between the finite and the infinite, 
the creature and the Creator, is too wide for him to bridge. God, 
indeed, might condescend to accept man's offering, but that would 
not increase its intrinsic value, or bring it, by a single span, nearer 
to the infinite standard, which, alone, is the measure of what is owing 
to him. 

But the Mass bridges the gulf. Just as the Incarnation spans the 

chasm between the human and the divine by uniting manhood with 

Godhead in oneness of Person, so Christ, by taking us into fellowship 

with himself in his mystical body, the Church, through Baptism, 

x Cent. Gentes, iii, 119. a Ibid., iii, 120. 


and by sharing with us his priesthood, and making us his co-offerers 
of himself in the Mass, enables us to reach from earth to the highest 
heavens, to give to God a gift that is worthy of him, and to offer him 
adoration and thanks that, since they are Christ's and not merely 
ours, are fully equal to the infinite claims of the divine Majesty. 
The liturgy gives beautiful expression to this truth when the priest, 
holding the Blessed Sacrament over the chalice, and making with 
it a triple sign of the cross, says, " By him, and with him, and in him, 
is to thee, God the Father almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, 
all honour and glory/' All honour and glory, that is, perfect adora- 
tion and praise, because it is his act whose every act, since he is God, 
is infinite in its moral dignity and worth. Yet it is our act too, for 
we have our part in his priesthood. 

It is for this reason that every Catholic is bound, under pain of 
mortal sin, unless there be legitimate excuse, to sanctify the Lord's 
holy day, Sunday, by assisting at Mass. There is no other way in 
which he can worship God as he should be worshipped, no other 
way of giving God what is his due> " all honour and glory." Hence 
wilfully to neglect Mass is not only to fail in duty to God, but is also 
to rob God, as far as lies in our power, of that perfect homage which 
is his right. 

We have spoken of the Mass mainly as a sacrifice of adoration, 
but all that has been said applies to it equally in so far as it is a 
sacrifice of thanksgiving, and there is no need, therefore, to say more 
on this aspect of it, and we go on to consider it from the point of 
view of its propitiatory and impetrative character and effects. 

Fundamental to the idea of propitiation is the reality of sin } and Propitiation 
with this, the realisation of guilt. The sinner realises that he has 
trespassed upon God's sovereign rights and overturned the due and 
proper order of things, by refusing submission to God and trying to 
be his own god ; for the sinner, in reality, tries to put himself in 
God's place by making himself his own last end. As long as this 
subversion of the right moral relation of man to God continues, the 
divine sovereignty can only be maintained by God's exclusion of 
man from that intimacy of friendship which, in this life, is called the 
state of grace, and in the next, the state of glory and happiness in 
the beatific vision. 

We express, imperfectly, this state of things by saying that God 
is offended with the sinner, or even angry, and that he must be 
placated or propitiated before he will take him back into friendship. 
That this way of speaking, which is both scriptural and natural, 
does not express the whole truth is evident when we remember the 
continual insistence of Jesus Christ upon God's fatherly love for 
sinners and his unwearying efforts to win them back. But it does, 
nevertheless, express a reality. Sin is a subversion of the right 
moral relation of the creature to his Creator ; something real is wrong 


that must be put right, and until it is put right, the effect upon man, 
so far as his final destiny is concerned, is the same as if God were 
really moved by indignation and anger. For there is opposition of 
man*s will to God's, and where there is not oneness of will there 
caixnot be the intimacy of mutual friendship, there cannot be a life 
lived in common ; and, since God's will must prevail, the effect upon 
man is exile from him, a life apart aixd deprivation of the end for 
which he was made, that is, final failure and consequent eternal 


As it is man who, by sin, overthrows the order set up by 
so it is he who must, as far as possible, restore it. By his rebellion he 
refuses to submit to God, to give himself and all he has and is to God. 
Therefore, in order to put things right, he must give back what he 
has withheld, he must make to God the offering of his whole self, 
mind, will, even life. Being man he feels the need of giving outward 
expression to this inward act of self -surrender, and this he does by 
the offering of a gift or victim in sacrifice. God, accepting the 
penitent sinner's surrender and sacrifice, is said to be thereby pro- 
pitiated and placated, and receives him again into friendship ; and 
in truth, the subverted order has been really restored, what was 
wrong has been put right, union of wills has again taken the place 
of opposition and discord. ... ^ 

This is the merest outline of what is meant by propitiation. For 
a more adequate explanation we refer the reader to Christ as Priest 
and Redeemer* Herein also it is set forth how, after man had sinned, 
it was Christ alone, the God-Man, who could make to God the satis- 
faction and propitiation necessary for the restitution of the order that 
had been completely overthrown ; that he did this by the sacrifice 
of himself which was consummated on Calvary ; and that in virtue 
of the solidarity that makes of mankind one family in the supernatural 
order, Christ's personal act is valid for all men, and his merits 
available for the pardon of all their sins. 

But, though available for all, Christ's merits have to be applied 
to the individual before they can actually profit him, and this ap- 
plication is effected in many ways ; firstly, through God's sheer 
benevolence and mercy whereby he gives man numberless uncove- 
nanted graces, without any action on man's part, and secondly, as 
an answer to prayer, through the agency of the sacraments, and 
through the Mass. The Mass, as we have already seen, is a prayer, 
the highest possible prayer of adoration and thanksgiving, but we 
are now looking at it from another point of view, we are considering 
it as a way of bringing God's grace to man by the process of propitia- 
tion. That is, we are looking at it not as the act of the person or 
persons offering it, but as a thing which, in itself, has the power 
of moving God to shower his graces upon us. We are looking at it 
not as something that we do, but as something that we give to God, 

1 Essay xiv, pp. 490 ff. 


by way of compensation or satisfaction for our sins, and for which 
he gives us something in return. And although it is this point of 
Catholic teaching that the Protestant Reformers and their later 
followers professed to find so unscriptural and even so shocking, as 
derogating from the infinite value of the sacrifice of Calvary, it is 
easy to see that, rightly understood, it contains nothing to offend. 

May we, without irreverence, put it thus ? Jesus Christ, by his 
death, opened an account in the bank of heaven into which he poured 
the infinite riches of his merits, to be used for the relief of all men's 
needs. Every Mass is a cheque signed by him as Priest and Victim, 
signed with his own blood, stamped with the Cross, ranking there- 
fore as the presentation anew of his sacrificial death, and therefore 
entitling the bearer to a share in the riches stored in heaven's treasury. 
Entitling him, because God, in accepting the High Priest's sacrifice, 
thereby agreed, and, as it were, bound himself to pay out from the 
account thus opened whenever it should be presented to him afresh. 
So far, then, from derogating from the infinite value of Christ's 
death, the Catholic teaching, in reality, proclaims and emphasises it 
by insisting on the fact that the propitiatory effect of the Mass lies 
simply in its power of moving God to dispense to men the treasures 
laid up for them by Christ. 

Closely bound up with the propitiatory power of the Mass is its Impetration 
power of impetration or pleading. Here the same principles apply. 
Jesus Christ " hath an everlasting priesthood, whereby he is able 
also to save for ever them that come to God by him, always living to 
make intercession for us," 1 by presenting himself ever as the im- 
molated victim, and letting his glorious wounds plead that the price 
he paid may be dispensed with divine generosity to help men in their 
needs. In every Mass that is offered the divine victim thus stands 
in sacrificial intercession, and quite apart from the prayers that are 
sent up by those who surround the altar on earth, the divine victim 
pleads and is " heard for his reverence." 2 

We have now to ask what is the actual effect produced by the Mass 
as a sacrifice of propitiation and impetration. What fruits does it 
produce in men, how and in what measure are they distributed among 
various classes of recipients, and who, if any, are debarred from 
sharing in them ? 


As the Council of Trent puts it, by means of this sacrifice " we 
obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid . . , for the Lord, 
appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the grace and gift 
of penitence, forgives even heinous crimes and sins . . . wherefore 
is it rightly offered, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions 

1 Heb. vii 24-25. * Ibid, v 7. 


and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those 
who are departed in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified." 

We shall deal first with the fruits received by the living. 

Difference What must be noticed before anything else is that the propi- 

tiatory action of the sacrifice is very different from the sanctifying 

action of a sacrament. This acts upon the soul directly and is an 
efficient cause producing grace in the soul. It is something that we 
receive, God's instrument or tool, which he uses to engrave his image 
upon the soul, or if it be already there, to cut its lines deeper and 
more clearly. Not so the sacrifice. This is something that we give 
to God, in exchange for which he gives us a return, grace or the 
remission of the debt of punishment. Sacrifice acts, not upon the 
soul, but rather, though the expression be not strictly accurate, upon 
God ; not as an efficient cause, but by way of moral causation, in 
so far as God, looking upon the gift, his own Son's self-oblation, is 
thereupon moved to give in return. 

How sins are What does he give ? To answer this question we must begin 
forgiven \yy pointing out that he does not give directly or immediately for- 
Mass tke giveness of sins. As far as mortal sins are concerned, we do not think 
that any theologian of repute has ever taught that they can be re- 
mitted as the direct result of the propitiatory power of the Mass. 
This effect is produced by the sacraments of Baptism and Penance, 
and extra-sacramentally, by an act of perfect contrition ; and, by 
divine ordinance, cannot be produced otherwise. Yet all are agreed, 
in accordance with the age-long tradition of the Church, and the 
teaching of the Tridentine decrees, that the propitiatory power of 
the Mass is a most efficacious agent for obtaining pardon of sin. 
The Missal is full of allusions to this. Here are but a few examples. 
" May these sacrifices, O Lord . . . cleanse away our sins " ; 
" Grant . . . that the oblation of this sacrifice may ever purify 
and protect our frailty from all evil " ; " Regard the sacrifices which 
we offer thee . . . and by this holy intercourse loosen the bonds 
of our sins " ; " May these offerings . . . unloose the bonds of our 
wickedness." x 

These prayers must be understood to mean what they say, and 
therefore we cannot follow those theologians who restrict the pro- 
pitiatory efficacy of the Mass to the obtaining of actual graces by 
which the sinner is led to true penance and sincere conversion. 
Before the giving of grace for the sinner's conversion, there is some- 
thing else to be don,e. However much we may try to avoid anthro- 
pomorphic ways of speaking of God, and however much modern 
sentimentality may dislike the notion of an angry and irritated God, 
we must realise and recognise that, at least, the effects of what we 
call God's anger are real, and we must insist that, in his dealings 
with man, his justice must be given as prominent a place as his love 

1 Secret, 3rd Sunday after Epiph., 4th Sunday after Epiph., Wednesday, 
2nd week of Lent, Passion Sunday. 


and mercy. For God is justice as truly as he is love. Now sin is an 
insult to God, an attempt to dethrone him, a refusal to give him 
what is his, and divine justice demands that, unless compensation 
be made or satisfaction given, the sinner be left unbefriended and 
finally cast off for ever. Jesus Christ made the necessary satisfac- 
tion ; it is offered to God anew in every Mass, and thereby his justice 
is vindicated, his anger appeased, and instead of punishing the sinner 
as he deserves, instead of leaving him without help, instead of with- 
holding from him the grace without which return to God is impos- 
sible, he looks on him with mercy and showers upon him all those 
graces which make true penance and conversion not only possible 
but easy. 

A moment's thought will show that the worst punishment that 
could befall the sinner, in this life, would be God's refusal to give 
him the grace necessary for repentance. To leave him to himself is 
tantamount to issuing a sentence of final damnation. But until 
God's justice be vindicated by some sort of satisfaction offered by 
that individual sinner, or on his behalf, there can be no positive 
assurance that the divine mercy will assert itself hi his favour and 
give him the help he so sorely needs. It is here that the propitiatory 
power of the Mass is exerted ; the sacrifice offered for the sinner is 
the compensation needed, he is brought again within the ambit of 
God's effective mercy, grace is given to him, repentance becomes 
possible, and his conversion is now only a matter of his free co- 
operation with God. 

Although we must distinguish in the Mass between propitiation 
and impetration, we cannot separate these two effects. They run 
together. As a sacrifice of propitiation the Mass, by making satis- 
faction for sin, appeases God's outraged majesty, as a sacrifice of 
impetration it moves his clemency ; by propitiation it ranks the 
sinner among those who are to be helped, by impetration it causes 
him to become the actual recipient of help. The formal notions are 
different, the effect is ultimately and actually one and indivisible. 

What has been said of mortal sin applies also, as far as the prin- 
ciples are concerned, to venial sins, to our daily faults, infidelities and 
negligences. The common opinion of theologians is that these also 
are forgiven only indirectly by the Mass, just as mortal sins. The 
reasons are the same, for although these sins do not put the soul into 
a state of enmity with God, yet they do put obstacles in the way 
of the free flow of his grace. These obstacles must first be removed 
before divine grace can work unhindered to lead the soul to that 
state of penitence and devotion necessary for the remission even of 
venial sins. 

Besides the power of obtaining in this indirect way the pardon Remission of 
of sins, the Mass, as a sacrifice of propitiation, has also the effect ofP unishment 
satisfying for temporal punishments which have to be suffered, 
either in this world or the next, even after the sins have been forgiven. 

For the 

of fruits 


Hence the Council of Trent says that it is offered for " punishments 
and satisfactions." The consideration of this effect brings into our 
survey not only the living, but also the dead, those who have departed 
" in Christ but are not yet fully purified." But this effect is produced 
directly. Here we may usefully call again upon the analogy of Jesus 
Christ's heavenly deposit of treasure, paid over by him in satisfaction 
for the penal debts of men. In every Mass he now hands in upon 
the altar a cheque to draw upon this treasure and to use it for the 
actual remission of punishment justly merited by sinners. 

So it is that, from the earliest times, while the Mass has never 
been offered for martyrs, since it was realised that they were in no 
need of help, it has always been the custom to offer the holy sacrifice 
for the rest of the faithful departed, for " it must not be doubted that 
the departed receive help by the prayers of the Church and the life- 
giving sacrifice." 1 St Augustine's moving description of his mother 
Monica's death is well known, and his testimony that her only request 
to her family was that " everywhere, wherever they might be, they 
would remember her at the altar," 2 is a witness both to the antiquity 
of the practice of offering the Mass for the souls of the dead, and to 
the firm hold it had upon the minds of the faithful. 

Here arises a question of considerable interest, of practical im- 
portance and of some difficulty. There can be no doubt that, if we 
consider the Mass in itself, that is, not as our action who offer it, 
but as Christ's own body and blood, and sufferings and death, 
offered and presented anew by him to the Father, its value in the way 
of propitiation for sins and punishments and satisfactions is truly 
infinite. This point needs no proof ; to anyone who realises what 
the Mass is, it is obvious. On the other hand, it is equally clear that 
the actual effect produced by any one Mass is limited. Otherwise 
the Church could not allow hundreds of Masses to be offered for one 
soul in Purgatory. She could not, indeed, allow more than one Mass 
to be offered for one soul, or in satisfaction for one sin. Whence, 
therefore, is the limitation ? 

On this question theologians are divided. Some attribute it to 
a positive ordinance of God, holding that, for his own good reasons, 
among which is his desire to encourage the devotion, of the faithful, 
he definitely restricts the effect produced. Little, if any, real sup- 
port can be found for this opinion, which seems also to be intrinsi- 
cally improbable when we consider God's loving desire to give all 
possible help to men ; such an arbitrary limitation would seem to 
contradict all we know of his mercy and clemency. 

Most theologians take another line, with St Thomas, and hold 
that the propitiatory effect of the Mass is proportioned to the devo- 
tion of those who offer it. This seems to be not only good theology, 
but also sound psychology, not to say common sense. For a sacrifice 
is a gift, and the acceptability of a gift and the recipient's readiness to 

1 St Augustine, Sermon 172. 

2 Con/., Bk. IX, chap. xi. 


give in return, although not independent of the intrinsic value of the 
gift, are more closely related to the giver's dispositions. The widow's 
mite stands for proof. So with the Mass. Its intrinsic value is in- 
finite and invariable, but the dispositions of those who offer it, their 
zeal, love, hope, faith, confidence, are capable of almost infinite varia- 
tions in degree, from the burning ardour of the saint to the grudging 
coldness of him who gives from motives of formality, routine or 
human respect. It is only natural, then, that the effect produced by 
the Mass, whether by way of propitiation or impetration, should fall 
far below its own objective worth, and have some proportion to the 
reality and intensity of the dispositions prompting the gift. This is 
not to say that the fruit produced is merely on a level with those dis- 
positions ; there are good reasons, chief among them the worth of 
the gift itself, for holding that it far exceeds them, but that there is 
some true proportion seems to be well established, although it is 
impossible to say what it is and how exactly it is to be measured. 
This is God's secret. 

When the reader recalls what was said in the previous section 
about Christ being the first and principal offerer of every Mass, he 
may urge in objection against this teaching the perfection of his 
dispositions, and conclude therefrom that the Mass must always 
produce its maximum effect. It must, however, be borne in mind 
that a gift or sacrifice offered in propitiation or satisfaction must be 
offered for a particular person or offence. Its efficacy must be di- 
rected by an act of the offerer's will towards the special object for 
which it is offered. Now, as Jesus Christ has given us this sacrifice 
for our use and benefit, so he leaves to us the power of directing 
its propitiatory virtue whithersoever we will. Though, therefore, 
the Mass is offered by Christ its special application comes from us, 
and, hence, its actual propitiatory and satisfactory effect is limited 
and conditioned by the dispositions of him who makes this applica- 
tion, who gives the gift for this or that special object. 

It is hardly necessary to add that, as regards this special fruit of 
satisfaction and propitiation, the privilege of applying the Mass for 
any particular object belongs to the person who provides for its 
celebration, that is, nowadays, who gives the priest a stipend with 
the request to offer the sacrifice for his intention, and therefore, the 
priest, having accepted the contract, is bound in strict justice to fulfil 
it by conforming his intention with that of him who gave. 

On one further point there is but little to be said. It is clear that ^4 they 
the effect or fruit of the Mass, either as propitiation or satisfaction, j 
is produced with infallible certainty. But, on the other hand, ex- 
perience shows that the result wished for, as for example, a sinner's 
conversion, does not always follow. The reason for the failure is, 
of course, solely in the sinner's refusal to co-operate with the grace 
God gives him. Man must do his part, and if he will not, even 
a million Masses cannot convert him. This lack of dispositions 


cannot exist in, the case of the suffering souls in Purgatory, and with 
them, therefore, the desired effect, whether it be the alleviation of 
their sufferings, or the shortening of their time of purgation, must 
infallibly be produced, limited, however, by the conditions already 
laid down, and also, perhaps, as many theologians think, by the degree 
and ardour of charity existing in the soul for whom the Mass is offered. 
Further speculation on this matter is profitless, for it has no sound 
foundation in knowledge. All we can do is to rest content with the 
practice of the Church, and sure that no fraction of the fruits of a Mass 
offered for a soul in Purgatory can possibly be wasted. God's mercy 
is our guarantee. 

Who are When we ask who, if any, are excluded from receiving the fruits 

e fromthe ^ t ' ie Mass, we must first of all make a distinction between the living 
fruits of and the dead. To take the former first, it is clear that as Christ 
Mass ? died for all men, and wishes all to be saved, so all can be helped by 
his sacrifice which, whether as impetration or propitiation, can be 
offered for all. But the application of this general principle is con- 
ditioned by the fact that Jesus Christ instituted the Mass for the 
Church, to whom alone he gave the right and power of regulating 
and controlling the application of its fruits. She, therefore, has in 
the course of time made such rules as seemed necessary, both to 
ensure that the benefits of the Mass should be as widely diffused as 
possible, and also, on the other hand, to guard it against any risk of 
profanation or irreverence, and to avoid the danger of throwing her 
pearls before swine. This is not the place to examine these rules in 
detail ; let it be enough to say that the Church encourages her 
children to be generous in offering the holy sacrifice for the highest 
needs of all men, whether or no they belong to Christ's body, the 
visible Church, that they may be saved from the consequences of 
their sins, and be converted to the true shepherd of their souls. 

As far as regards the dead, the lost in hell are, of course, beyond 
all help. For the same fundamental reason, the blessed in heaven 
are beyond the need of help. The blessed have reached their last 
end, the damned have finally failed to reach it ; in neither case is 
any advance possible, any growth in the happiness of the blessed, 
any lessening of the misery of the lost. We have, therefore, to con- 
sider only the suffering souls in purgatory. All need help, all can 
be helped. But, here again, the practical question is governed 
rather by positive ecclesiastical law than by general principles. The 
only point on which there is nowadays any dispute among theologians 
and canonists, is as to whether a Mass may be offered for an individual 
soul, who, during life, was not a member of the visible Church. 
But even those who maintain that this is still forbidden by the Church 's 
law, yet hold that there is good reason for thinking that God, in his 
mercy, does not withhold from such a soul any part of the help it 
would have received if the Mass had been offered for it individually. 
Among theologians many other points are disputed concerning 


the distribution of the fruits of the Mass, and matters of contract 
and justice arising from the giving of stipends for Masses ; but these 
and other things, being hardly suitable for discussion in such an 
essay as this, intended for the reader unversed in, theological nice- 
ties, must be passed over. 


APART from the few lines given to the matter in the fifth section, Communion 
nothing has been said about the Communion, although, without a 
doubt, it is a most important element in the Mass, both in itself, 
and in its relation to the sacrificial character of the Mass. Nor is it 
our intention to speak of it at any length now. It is safe to say that 
the theory advanced, some years ago, by a few theologians, to the 
effect that the Communion contained the central and essential ele- 
ment of the sacrifice, has met with the fate it deserved, and cannot 
be seriously entertained. It is now almost universally conceded that 
the function of the Communion, considered as an integrating element 
of the sacrifice, is to express man's approach to God and union with 
him, by becoming a guest at his table, to symbolise the glories and 
joys of the future life, of which the sacrificial banquet is a figure and 
anticipation, and to express, likewise, the close union and charity 
that should unite, as in one family, all who eat of the same table. 
This symbolism is common to the sacrificial banquets of all religions. 
When applied to the Eucharistic Communion it becomes, of course, 
something very much more than mere and empty symbolism because 
of the Real Presence, but to deal with this would be to consider the 
sacramental effects of the Eucharist, which are outside our province 
and are treated in another essay. 

One or two other points call for brief mention before we close. 

In many of the ancient liturgies there is to be found a prayer The Epidesis 
known as the epiclesis or invocation which, on account of its form and 
its position, has been a difficulty to many and has led some astray. 
For whereas it is regularly placed after the words of institution, 
" This is my body," and the rest, it takes the form of a petition to 
the Holy Trinity, or in many cases, to the Holy Ghost, that by the 
power of God the bread may become the body of Christ and the wine 
his blood. Hence arises the question, which are the effective words 
that act as the instrument of God's power to change the bread into 
Christ's body, the wine into his blood ? The Catholic Church holds 
definitely that transubstantiation is effected by Christ's words, the 
words of institution, as is clear from the fact that in the Roman Mass 
there is no true epiclesis, and from her rubric directing the priest 
to kneel and adore the consecrated host as soon as the words of con- 
secration, " This is my body," have been said ; and consequently, 
Catholic theologians teach, as we have already said, that the sacrifice 
in all essentials is complete as soon as the words of institution have 


been pronounced over the chalice, that is, as soon as the twofold 
consecration of the bread and wine has taken place. 

Yet it must be added that, although the words of institution alone 
are operative in effecting transubstantiation and they alone, therefore, 
contain and embrace the essential elements of the sacrifice, it must 
not be inferred that the invocation, or indeed any of the prayers that 
make up the Canon of the Mass are superfluous or unnecessary. 
The whole of the Canon is the expression in words and actions of 
various aspects of the one sacrificial act which takes but a moment of 
time. But, owing to the very nature of words and gestures, dramatic 
expression must be extended through time, and the proper time 
relationship of the momentary act to its outward expression must 
inevitably be obscured, or even seem to be inverted. What has not 
yet happened must be spoken of as present, what is past must be 
expressed as still to come. 

The foregoing pages contain but little more than an outline of 
a subject about which there is an immense and ever-growing volume 
of literature. Saints, fathers, doctors, theologians, spiritual writers, 
liturgists, historians have all found, and are continually finding, 
something new to say about the Mass, for in truth the subject is in- 
exhaustible. We have, on the other hand, simply kept to the old, 
well-worn tracks. After all the highways must be known before the 
byways can be explored with safety, and indeed, for many, the high- 
ways must suffice for all the needs and adventures of life. To those 
who are still unacquainted with the highways of theology this little 
essay may be useful ; to some others it may appeal as a reminder of 
the days when they first began to set out upon this journey of labours 
and delights. 





IT is characteristic of our modern civilisation and a result of the cease- The purpose 
less activity and speed of our lives that men think very little, if at all, 
about the purpose of their existence. They expect everything else 
to justify its existence, for the elementary notion of good and bad ex- 
presses the attainment or non-attainment of a due measure of per- 
fection ; they call a horse good if it is sound in wind and limb, or the 
roof of a house bad if the rain enters in. But to the end or purpose 
of man himself many do not give a passing thought. He is in the 
universe, not knowing why nor whence, and out of it again " as wind 
along the waste.'* 

Those who do not base their lives on a principle of religion at- 
tempt, perhaps, in a more reflective mood to erect a standard of 
conduct based on the attainment of some purpose in life : wealth, 
domestic happiness, scientific discovery, social service, philanthropy, 
or any other worthy object. It is not the immediate object of this 
essay to show the essential inadequacy of these things, nor to establish 
the supreme truth that in the possession of God alone is human 
happiness and perfection to be found. 1 But it is worth while in- 
sisting at the outset that a false idea of the purpose of human exist- 
ence, by which we understand that which constitutes the final per- 
fection and happiness of man, must inevitably lead to a false idea of 
the meaning of human evil or sin. It will be conceived by the 
humanitarian as an offence against humanity, by the materialist as a 
kind of disease, by the cynic as a breach of established conventions. 
The very worst thing one might say about it would be that it is in- 
consistent with the dignity of a rational being. But once granted that 
God is the end or purpose of human life, the true idea of sin becomes 
apparent. It is an offence against God. 

The Catholic doctrine on sin and repentance has, for this reason, 
a more immediate and personal application to the individual than 
any other doctrine. For the sinner does not hurt the immutable 
God ; he hurts only himself by turning away from his Creator to 
things created. He introduces into his own being disorder and dis- 
cord, and, unless he repents, he will remain for ever separated from 
God. Having failed to attain the only purpose of his existence, he is 
like a barren tree that is fit for nothing but to be burnt. 

1 Cf. Essay ix, Man and his Destiny, pp. 303 ff. 


Cardinal Newman tells us, in one place, how the doctrine of final 
perseverance brought home to his mind the existence of two lumin- 
ously self-evident beings : himself and his Creator. It is uniquely 
from the point of view of the relation between God and the individual 
soul that we are going to think about sin, not regarding it as some- 
thing which brings poverty and misery into the world in general, but 
as a supreme evil which impoverishes a human soul by averting it 
from God. 

There is a further reason why it is impossible to understand sin 
except in terms of the destiny of the individual soul. We have been 
created by God for himself, and in nothing short of the possession of 
God will the desires of our immortal souls find their ultimate satis- 
faction. What exactly this union between our souls and God would 
have been, had we not been raised to the supernatural state, is a 
matter of pure conjecture. A state of natural beatitude would doubt- 
less have implied some intimate knowledge of God's perfections, 
mirrored in his creatures, and some corresponding degree of natural 
felicity, but the unaided powers of our human nature could never 
possibly see God as he sees himself, face to face. Such knowledge of 
God is altogether above the capabilities of any created nature, even 
the nature of the highest angel, for it is the life of God himself. Yet 
it is to this sublime and supernatural vision of God, not " through a 
glass in a dark manner, but face to face," x that God has destined us. 
He has adopted us into his family, given us a share in his own life, 
made us partakers of the divine nature. 2 

The super- God, being omnipotent, could have effected this plan of his 

natural state divine goodness in many conceivable ways, but he has revealed to us 
the way he chose to work this mystery which has been hidden in 
God from all eternity. The real Son of God by nature became man 
in order that men might become sons of God by adoption ; he 
deigned to become a sharer in our humanity in order that we might 
become sharers in his divinity. In the supernatural order Christ 
our Lord is the link between God and man, the only mediator, the 
firstborn among many brethren. 3 Through our union with him, 
branches of one vine, members of one body, our souls are super- 
naturalised by sanctifying grace, a beginning of the final consumma- 
tion in the vision of God : " He chose us in him before the foundation 
of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in 
charity. Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children 
through Jesus Christ/' 4 

In the supernatural order in which we are placed sin has this 
effect : it deprives the soul of sanctifying grace and charity, banishes 
God who dwells there as in a temple, 5 and leaves the soul empty and 
desolate, deprived of its supernatural character as an adopted son of 

1 1 Cor. xiii 12. 2 2 Peter i 4. 

3 Rom. viii 29. 4 Eph. i 4. 

6 i Cor. iii 16. 


God. " Behold, I stand at the door, and knock/' * If, in God's infinite 
mercy, this ruined habitation is once again rebuilt and becomes once 
more the dwelling-place of God, it will be due to the divine initiative 
freely 'holding out the grace of repentance and converting the re- 
bellious sinner again to himself. 2 

To complete an initial understanding of sin and repentance, one The redemp- 
more reflection is necessary. We shall attain our last end and happi- tion of Christ 
ness as sons of God in being made conformable to the image of his 
Son, 3 Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose hands the Father has given 
all things. 4 Whether the Son of God would have become incarnate 
if sin had not entered the world by the fall of our first parents, is a 
matter of theological speculation. But the fact of sin is certain, and 
it is equally certain that no created being could atone for the insult 
thus offered to the infinite majesty of God. If divine justice required 
a satisfaction equal to the offence, it was necessary for it to be offered 
by a divine person. From the first moment of Adam's sin a Re- 
deemer was promised, whose office and dignity became more and 
more clear throughout the ages waiting his coming. When, in the 
fulness of time, God appeared in Christ reconciling the world to 
himself, 5 the prophet and priest, the model and king of all men, he 
had one supreme work to perform which so predominated in his 
sacred life on earth that his name was taken from it : " Thou shalt 
call his name JESUS, for he shall saye his people from their sins." 6 
We should not even think of sin and its disastrous effects on our own 
souls without thinking at the same time of Christ, bearing our in- 
firmities, stricken like a leper and afflicted, wounded for our iniqui- 
ties, bruised for our sins, 7 offering to his Father the fullest possible 
satisfaction for the sins of the world by dying on the Cross. 

And if we should not think of sin apart from Christ's satisfaction, 
still less can we even conceive the grace of repentance, converting 
the soul again to God, apart from the merits of Christ, " for there is 
no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be 
saved." 8 When a sinner is turned again to God, every step leading 
up to the infusion of grace is due to the merits of Christ, " in whom 
we have redemption, through his blood, the remission of sins." 9 

These essential notions concerning the purpose of life, the super- 
natural state to which we have been raised by grace, and above all 
the redeeming office of Christ, are, as it were, the background or 
setting upon which a more detailed description of sin and repentance 
can be placed. 

On these vital premisses we can now proceed a step further. The The eternal 
Summa Theologica of St Thomas treats in the first part of God, in the la f God 
second part of the movement of the rational creature towards God, 

1 Apoc. iii 20. 2 Cf. Essay xvii, Actual Grace, pp. 604-605. 

8 Rom. viii 29. * John iii 35. 

6 2 Cor. v 19. 6 Matt, i 21. 

7 Isa. liii 4. 8 Acts iv 12. * Col. i 14* 


and in the third part of Christ who is the way by which the rational 
creature reaches God. Man's movement towards God, his last end 
and beatitude, is progressive, stretching over the whole journey of his 
earthly life, and on this journey he is assisted and directed in two 
ways by his Creator. He is moved internally by divine grace, for, 
as we have already recalled, his last end being a supernatural one, he 
is unable to attain to it by his own natural power. He is also directed 
externally by divine laws which are like signposts on the way. We 
must examine more closely this notion of law, because sin is inti- 
mately connected with it. No human being, not even the greatest 
sinner, directly and explicitly turns away from God his last end and 
highest good. He turns from his last end by turning towards some- 
thing forbidden by the law of God. It is a point which is vital to the 
proper understanding of mortal sin, and we shall return to it in the 
next section. 

Law is an ordinance of reason made for the common good and 
promulgated by the person who has care of a community. Whatever 
category of law we may consider, it is always a reasonable scheme or 
plan devising means to an end, but the will of the legislator must 
" ordain, " and impose it on his subjects before the plan can be called 
law : the Budget is merely a scheme before it is passed by Parliament. 
Law is a plan designed for the good of the whole community, not 
merely for the benefit of an, individual ; in fact, laws frequently re- 
quire the individual interest to be sacrificed to the common good. 
Moreover, since law gives rise to the obligation of observing it, it 
must be promulgated by being brought to the notice of the subject, 
and cannot bind unless it is known. 

Now, it will be seen at once that this concept of law refers pri- 
marily to God who has care of the whole universe, and the authority 
of other legislators, no matter what the scope of their " community " 
may be, is derived ultimately from God. The plan of divine wisdom 
directing all actions and movements in the whole universe, Deluding 
physical laws and animal instincts, is called the eternal law, and it is 
the fount and origin of the order in the universe. 

The natural We are concerned now only with the laws of God governing and 
law directing human beings. How are they promulgated an,d brought 

to our notice ? We think at once of the Mosaic law, of the law of the 
Gospel instituted and promulgated by Christ " Rex et Legifer 
Noster," of the laws of the Church made by Councils and Popes under 
the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of the just laws of States, of the 
regulations of religious Orders and other smaller communities. 

But, as a matter of fact, there is a law of God governing human 
beings, which is antecedent to any of those we have mentioned and 
of far greater obligation, which was binding on the Gentiles, who had 
never heard of the law of Moses, 1 and to which all men are subject 
even though they recognise neither the law of the Gospel, nor the 

1 Rom. ii 14. 


authority of the Church, nor the ruling of the State. It is called the 
natural law, the participation and reflection in a rational creature of 
the eternal law of God, and therefore an expression in man of the 
very essence of God. God was free not to create human nature at 
all, but having created it he could not but assign to it the moral or 
natural law. Every created thing has certain well-defined tendencies 
proper to its nature, and man is no exception to this rule. Unlike 
the instincts and tendencies of irrational things, the law which governs 
human nature is law in the strict sense of the word, for the individual 
is able to obey or disobey, and is not driven along by blind inherent 
force. The endowment of free will, necessarily accompanying a 
rational nature, is man's peril as well as his chief glory, for in freely 
disregarding the laws of his own nature he is responsible for the re- 
sulting ruin and disorder. 

This law of his being is called the natural law because it can be 
perceived by the light of reason alone, and because its precepts can 
be deduced by reason from the data of human nature. To analyse 
and explain the natural moral law is the purpose of the science of 
ethics, and we cannot do more than indicate the broad lines of the 
process. We find from the experience of our own nature that a 
human being is a complicated organism having many faculties and 
tendencies and needs. In the interplay of these various parts a 
certain subordination of the lower to the higher, of the parts to the 
whole, and of the whole to God, is clearly observed. Let us take a 
few examples. It is morally wrong to satisfy the desire for food and 
drink in a way which causes grave harm to the whole body or which 
obscures the use of reason. Certain faculties, as the power of pro- 
creation, having a natural purpose and natural organs for that purpose, 
it is morally wrong to pervert this purpose by sexual vice. Human 
nature is social and needs the society of other human beings ; all 
those things are therefore morally wrong which would make the 
maintenance of human society impossible ; for example, anarchy or 
theft. Lastly, human reason can establish the existence of God the 
Creator and ruler of the universe, a good and beneficent and sapient 
Being : that blasphemy and hatred of God are morally wrong is a 
necessary consequence. 

In a word, the substance of the Decalogue, with the exception of 
the third commandment, is nothing more than a written expression of 
the natural law. If I tell a man to live according to his nature, to 
develop his faculties harmoniously in accordance with their natural 
objects, and to live in a manner befitting the dignity of a human being, 
I am merely telling him to obey the natural law which is a reflection 
in his nature of the eternal law of God. In telling a man to do good 
and avoid evil, I am telling him not to break the commandments of 
God. The two sets of ideas are mutually inclusive. 

All this is the natural law. But man is raised to a supernatural 
state, and in everything which concerns the attainment of his 


supernatural end, human reason alone is powerless to discover the 
laws which God has devised for his guidance. He needs to be taught 
by God. Christ our Lord, who taught the way of God in truth, 1 
has brought to our knowledge the necessity of Baptism and of faith 
and all the other precepts of the Gospel, and the Church continues 
to teach in his name. 

But there is this further important observation to make : even 
with regard to the natural obligations of the moral law it is necessary 
for the majority of men to be taught by God ; for human reason left 
to itself will discover the truth, at least in the less obvious precepts 
of the natural law, only with such labour and difficulty that very 
few men would come to the knowledge of it. Therefore, the Catholic 
is taught by the Church his natural duties, and in matters of great 
moment and difficulty the teaching authority of the Church defines 
the moral obligations of the faithful ; for example, in the use of 
marriage. That teaching imposed on the whole Church is infallibly 
true, for it bears the stamp of divine authority. 

Definition Sufficient has been said to show the meaning of divine law, the 

of sin breach of which is sin. Inasmuch as every species of just law is 

reduced to the eternal law of God as its fount and origin, the aptness 
of the classical Augustinian definition of sin is apparent : " Sin is 
any thought, word, or deed against the eternal law, which is the divine 
ordinance of reason commanding order to be observed and forbidding 
its disturbance." 2 It is against this majestic ordinance of God that 
man dares to act in setting aside the natural law, or the law of the 
Church, or any other just law. But he cannot evade altogether the 
eternal law of God " commanding order to be observed/' and it is of 
Catholic faith that the order of divine justice may require the eternal 
punishment of the sinner. 

We may now make a closer examination of mortal sin. In order 
to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, we must remember that 
the word " sin " may be employed in various senses : we speak of 
" original " sin, of " mortal " sin, and of " venial " sin. Confusion 
will arise if we allow ourselves to think of these three terms as if they 
denoted three kinds or species of one genus, in rather the same way 
as we speak of any three sacraments sharing in the generic notion of 
external signs causing grace. The full nature of sin, in, the sense 
employed throughout this essay, with the exception of the last section, 
is found only in personal mortal sin ; original sin and venial sin share 
in, that nature only incompletely and analogously. The complete 
malice and disastrous effects of sin are proper to personal mortal sin 
and to nothing else. It is the action by which a man knowingly 
and freely turns from God by fixing his will on creatures. How it is 
that an offence against the law of God necessarily entails the rejection 
of God will be explained more fully in the following section. 

1 Matt, xxii 16. 

2 Migne, P. L., xlii 48. 



THE eternal law directs rational creatures towards their last end and The end of 
perfection in God. It is a union which will reach its final consum- the law 
mation in the vision of God face to face, and in this life consists in 
the mutual love between God and the soul, charity, the bond of 
perfection. 1 The end of the law, therefore, is God, to be loved by 
the rational creature as his sovereign good, to whom every created 
good must be subordinated. Hence follows this important conse- 
quence : wilfully to disobey that law is to prefer some created finite 
satisfaction to the infinite uncreated good which is God. To dis- 
obey God's law is to show by one's actions that God's will and good 
pleasure are not the predominant motive of one's life. He who sins 
grievously implicitly declares : " I know that by this action I am for- 
feiting God's friendship ; nevertheless I do it." What else is this 
than to prefer the creature to the Creator, one's own gratification to 
the express will of God, self-love to the love of God ? " The end of 
the commandment is charity." 2 

This might appear, at first sight, an exaggeration. It might be Sin the re- 
objected that the sinner does not weigh up the relative merits of the- 7 "*** * f God 
Creator and the creature, and decide in favour of the creature. He 
desires, indeed, to do something which he knows to be forbidden, 
but he does not regard it as his sovereign good and the sole end of his 
existence. No sinner directly intends to turn away from God. 
Such an act would be, in fact, impossible, for the human will neces- 
sarily turns towards its highest good and happiness : even a sin like 
the hatred of God is an aversion not from man's last end, but from 
God considered under some such aspect as the avenger of evil, and 
therefore conceived as harmful. 

The answer to this objection is that the twofold element in every 
mortal sin, namely, the rejection of God and adherence to creatures, 
inevitably coincides in one act of the human will. Self-love and self- 
gratification in the forbidden enjoyment of creatures is the direct 
and immediate object of the will. The rejection of God is willed in- 
directly as involved in the choice of a sinful object. Theoretically 
the sinner may admit that the self-indulgence which he contemplates 
is shameful, that it is unworthy of a rational creature's desire, and 
that God's friendship is the only good infinitely desirable. Yet, in 
practice, he acts as though he regarded, that self-indulgence as more 
desirable than God's friendship, since, in order to enjoy the creature, 
he is willing to forfeit the love of the Creator. By directly choosing 
the enjoyment of some created good known to be mortally sinful, 
the sinner elects to disturb the moral order of God to the extent of 
losing the divine friendship. He does not want to turn from God, 
you will say. He does so in turning to a creature, and he does so 
as deliberately and as inevitably as he who desiring to turn his face 

1 Col. iii 14. 2 i Tim. i 5. 


to the east thereby turns his back to the west. " They said, reasoning 
with themselves : The time of our life is short and tedious . . . and 
no man hath been known to return from hell. . . . Come therefore, 
and let us enjoy the good things that are present ... let us fill our- 
selves with costly wine ... let us oppress the poor just man, and 
not spare the widow . . . let our strength be the law of justice. . . . 
These things they thought, and were deceived : for their own malice 
blinded them, and they knew not the secrets of God." * 

It is because of this double aspect in every mortal sin that its 
nature can be described in a twofold way. The essential element 
which makes sin the greatest possible evil in the world is the re- 
jection of God, the love of self carried to the extent of treating God 
with contempt, the averting of the will from God by a voluntary re- 
course to creatures. In this respect all mortal sins are alike. But 
if we desire to discuss the relative gravity of different mortal sins, 
or to discover some process by which sins may be grouped into dif- 
ferent categories or species, we must turn our attention to the positive 
aspect of sin, and consider the various finite objects for the sake of 
which God may have been rejected. 

Distinction It is in this sense that the familiar Augustinian definition, given 

of sins i n the previous section, is to be understood. The difference between 

one mortal sin and another can only turn on the degree and nature 
of the subversion of the moral order, on the variety of thought, word, 
or deed against the eternal law of God. In each case the sinful act 
carries with it the forfeiture of God's friendship, loss of grace, 
spiritual death. A man is dead whether he has been dead a day, a 
week, or a year, whether he died by violence or disease, in youth or 
in old age ; but in each case the cause of death may be differently 
reckoned and determined. So it is possible for a human being wil- 
fully to forsake God in various ways, according to the manner in 
which he departs from his law. Theft is an injury done to my 
neighbour, suicide is an injury done to myself, but each is an offence 
against God, because each is forbidden, though for different reasons, 
by the divine law. 

We shall see in a later section that the act of repentance reflects 
this double aspect of sin. Just as sin is the averting of the will from 
God by a voluntary recourse to creatures, so repentance implies 
conversion to God accompanied by an act of the will detesting the 
sin committed. It is because this detestation of sin is an absolutely 
necessary condition for reconciliation to God's friendship that the 
Church requires us to confess, in number and species, every mortal 
sin of which we are conscious. 

But are we to suppose that every breach of God's law is so serious 
as to deprive us of God's friendship ? Not so. We have already 
insisted that the full nature of sin is verified in mortal sin alone. 
There is a type of sin which is called " venial," and in a later section 

1 Wisd. ii. 


a fuller analysis of Its nature will be given. For the present we are 
speaking only of mortal sin, an act so grievously subversive of the 
moral order as to destroy the friendship existing between the soul 
and God, and to frustrate the end of the moral law, which is the due 
subordination of all created good to God, the infinite and sovereign 

Before we can say with any degree of certainty that mortal sin Grave 
has been committed, the action must objectively constitute a serious matter 
breach of the law of God. Is there any method whereby this may 
be determined ? A Catholic, of course, accepts the authority of the 
Church in defining the moral law, and the Church, in fact, has fre- 
quently settled disputes among the faithful by an authoritative 
decision : for example, Innocent XI declared that the voluntary 
omission of Mass on days of obligation was a grave sin. There is 
also the very clear teaching contained in certain texts of Holy Scrip- 
ture to the effect that certain evil actions exclude the doer from the 
kingdom of God, 1 or are worthy of eternal punishment, 2 or cry to 
heaven for vengeance. 3 

Human reason alone, granted the nature of mortal sin as destruc- 
tive of the moral order and disruptive of the love of God, can establish 
that certain disordered actions are of this nature. Charity is the 
friendship existing between God and man. Even in human inter- 
course there are actions which merely ruffle the surface of friendship, 
and there are others which are calculated to destroy it altogether. So 
also on the plane of divine charity, it is clear that a man cannot re- 
main the friend of God while blaspheming him, or refusing to believe 
his revelation, or declining to trust in his promises. And because the 
order of divine charity requires us to love others for God's sake as 
we love ourselves, it is equally clear that this order of fraternal charity 
cannot exist among men, in the face of certain grave injuries committed 
by one man against another. On this double precept of charity the 
whole moral law depends. 4 

Mortal sins will also differ in gravity as compared with one another. 
Inasmuch as our whole lives are directed by the eternal law in order 
to bring us to the possession of God, a sin such as blasphemy must be 
extremely grave, because it is a much greater disturbance of the es- 
tablished order to insult the Creator than to offend his creatures. 
Similarly, if we consider the moral order imposed on man as a social 
being, the more precious my neighbour's rights are, the more grievous 
is their violation ; taking an innocent life is a graver injury than steal- 
ing property. 

It is on this basis of reason applied to the data of revelation that 
the exponents of moral theology argue that certain actions are to be 
considered as grave sin, and when there is substantial agreement 
between t h em on points which may be a little difficult to determine, 

1 i Cor. vi 10. * Matt, xxv 41. 

8 Deut, xxiv 15. 4 Matt. XXH 40. 

and consent 



the faithful can accept their teaching as certain. For the common 
theological teaching, owing to its practical influence on the use of the 
sacrament of Penance, is, in effect, the common teaching of the 
Church. But even the most careful enquiry often fails to secure 
certainty, owing to the complexity of the matter and the divergent 
views tolerated by the Church. 

So far we have examined the subject, so to speak, objectively. 
But before any action can be considered as gravely sinful, not merely 
considered abstractly, but subjectively on the part of any particular 
individual, it is necessary for the individual conscience to appreciate 
that the action is morally wrong. 

Conscience is a judgement of the mind, based on habitual know- 
ledge, that an action is in conformity with the law of God or not. 
We cannot, in this place, discuss the many important questions con- 
cerning judgements of conscience which may be based on erroneous 
premisses, or be the result of invincible ignorance or scrupulosity. 
It would take us too far afield, and is not really necessary for a proper 
understanding of the act of sin. We will assume that the mind has 
formed a judgement that a proposed action is gravely sinful, in the 
sense that a serious obligation is involved, and that this decision is not 
warped by inculpable ignorance or by an abnormal mental condition. 

Now, in order that a person may commit a grave sin, that is, an 
act for which the individual sinner must be held responsible, it is 
clearly requisite that the will should give consent to the evil, for 
without free consent there can be no responsibility. It is precisely 
on this point that doubts and difficulties often arise, especially in sins 
of thought. The matter is essentially one for the individual to settle 
for himself, though a prudent confessor can be of great assistance in 
removing erroneous notions and irrelevant issues, and in helping a 
person to resolve the doubts which may have arisen on the score of 
consent, by steering a safe path between scrupulosity and laxity. 
We can at least see this : the consent of the will is necessarily bound 
up with, and measured by, the degree of mental awareness or adver- 
tence existing at the moment. In a practical issue of such vital im- 
portance as mortal sin, the consent must be reckoned insufficient 
unless it is accompanied by that degree of advertence which is re- 
quired for any other serious matter in human life. No one could be 
held bound, at least in conscience, to the terms of a contract which 
he had signed when half asleep, or when his mind was wandering, or 
when his judgement was unbalanced by the stress of a strong emotion 
which he had neither desired nor caused. Similarly no one can 
commit a mortal sin in these circumstances. 

We will suppose, then, that the requisite knowledge and adver- 
tence are present ; in other words, that a person knows a proposed 
action to be gravely forbidden by the law of God, even though the 
reasons for the prohibition are only vaguely perceived ; and, secondly, 
that he adverts to this knowledge, even though the consequent effects 


of mortal sin are not fully appreciated at the moment. The human 
will is now, as we say, being " tempted " to commit sin, and the 
temptation may arise either from the attractions of the world, or 
from the desires of our own bodies the law in our members always 
fighting against the law of God * or from the instigation of the enemy 
of mankind. 

Faced with the temptation to commit sin, the will may take one of 
two courses. The evil suggestion may be rejected and repudiated. 
It may return again and again, even, daily, throughout the course of 
our earthly life, and be rejected again and again. In this there is no 
sin, but heroic virtue. God allows it, " that it may appear whether 
you love him with all your heart and all your soul. 33 2 These tempta- 
tions are the blows of the hammer and chisel forming in our souls the 
image of Christ, the measure of our ultimate enjoyment of the vision 
of God : " Blessed is the man, that endureth temptation : for, when 
he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which God 
hath promised to them that love him.' 3 3 

Or, on the other hand, with the mind fully adverting to the evil 
of the suggestion, the will may elect to adopt it. At that moment 
mortal sin is committed. The cause of this disaster is not God, 4 
nor the devil, whom we are able to resist " strong in faith, 3> 5 but 
the human will, which has freely chosen to transgress the divine 
law, and by that action has turned away from God its last end and 

The sinful action has been committed and, perhaps, completely 
forgotten by the sinner. But, until he co-operates with the grace of 
repentance, the effects of that mortal sin remain in his soul, disfiguring 
its supernatural beauty and perfection, and making it worthy of 
eternal punishment. " How is the gold become dim, the finest 
colour changed, . . . the noble sons of Sion esteemed as earthen 
vessels. 3 ' 6 We have now to examine the state of the soul which has 
so lamentably fallen. 


IN the present section we shall examine a little more closely the effects 
caused in the soul by mortal sin, for we can obtain a fuller idea of the 
nature of any cause by considering its effects. Mortal sin is a free 
act of the will by which we discard the love of God and cease to be 
united to him as our sovereign good. Within this idea of freely re- 
jecting the friendship of God is contained everything we can say 
about the subsequent state of sin. These consequences are, doubt- 
less, not always fully realised by the person who sins, but a little re- 
flection on the data of revelation will bring them more clearly before 

1 Rom. vii 23. 2 Deut. xiii 3. 3 Jas. i 12. 

4 Ps. v 5 ; Jas. 13. Cf, Essay vii, Divine Providence, pp. 240-241. 

6 i Peter v 9. 6 Lam. iv i. 


the mind : " Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing 
for thee to have left the Lord thy God." 1 

Guilt and The rejection of God, which is sin, is an act performed by a free 

stain an( j responsible agent. The act once committed, the sinner remains 

in a permanent or habitual state of guilt or responsibility for the evil 
he has done in offending God, and, inasmuch as sin is a breach of 
the divine law, he incurs also the liability of being punished in order 
to repair the moral order violated by sin. 

Passing over, for the moment, the question of punishment, we 
must explain in more detail all that is implied in the state of a soul 
guilty of mortal sin. For, in the language of Holy Scripture, the 
word " sinner " is applied to men not only at the moment in which 
the offence was committed, but afterwards, as a description of their 
condition of soul, a state which remains until the offence has been 
forgiven. It is a consequence of sin which is perfectly intelligible, 
and is evident even in the offences committed by one man against 
another. The offence and the insult offered to God remain as some- 
thing imputed to the sinner until reparation has been made. Mortal 
sin is the turning away from God, and this state must remain until 
the sinner turns once more to him. 

Now, to appreciate what this condition of imputability or guilt 
entails, we must bear in mind that God has raised us to a supernatural 
state, endowing our souls with sanctifying grace, making us adopted 
sons of God, temples of the Holy Spirit, and sharers of the divine 
nature. Accompanying this free gift of God are the infused virtues 
and, above all, the virtue of charity, through which we are united 
to God by supernatural love. Had man not been raised to this super- 
natural state, grievous sin would not have caused in his soul any kind 
of privation. But in the present supernatural order the soul is not 
united to God unless it is in a state of grace and friendship with him, 
and, therefore, the state of enmity with God means the loss of sancti- 
fying grace and charity. 

It is a deprivation often referred to in Holy Scripture as a stain 
on the soul, 2 filthiness, 8 uncleanness, 4 from which we must be washed 
by God in clean water 5 and in the blood of Christ. 6 The phrases 
are used metaphorically, but they convey an accurate idea of the 
state of a soul in mortal sin. " Corruptio optimi pessima " : the 
better a thing is, the worse is its state of corruption. A corrupted 
animal is worse than a corrupted plant ; a dead human body is more 
unpleasant to look upon than the body of an animal ; a corrupted 
human soul must be the most ghastly thing in creation except a fallen 
angel. Uncleanness is a term which applies strictly only to material 
things, and it is caused by a pure and clean object coming into con- 
tact with something that defiles it. The beauty of a human soul 

1 Jer. ii 19. * Jos. xxii 17. 

8 Isa. iv 4. 4 Zach. iii 3. 

5 Ezech. xxxvi 25. 6 Apoc. i 5. 


consists in the natural light of reason, and, still more, in the super- 
natural light of divine grace. By mortal sin it is brought into contact 
with created things forbidden by the law of God, and by this contact 
becomes stained and defiled. It is a state of soul which can be con- 
sidered as the darkness or shadow caused by an object, personal guilt, 
which is obscuring the light ; the light of grace is restored to the 
soul by God's forgiveness of the personal offence which has caused 
the loss of his friendship. Hence, owing to the intimate connection 
between the loss of grace and the habitual guilt consequent on per- 
sonal mortal sin, it is absolutely impossible for one mortal sin to be 
forgiven unless the guilt of every mortal sin which a sinner may have 
committed is also removed. 

Closely allied to the permanent state of guilt consequent on mortal Debt of 
sin is the debt of undergoing punishment for the sin committed. It is Denial 
a debt, indeed, which the sinner may not be called upon actually to^ ums ment 
pay, since both sin and punishment may be remitted in this life 
through the mercy and goodness of God ; but every sin infallibly 
carries with it the liability of paying a penalty proportionate to the 

Every law must have a sanction attached to its non-observance, 
and it is in the nature of things that anyone who acts against an estab- 
lished order is repressed by the principle of the order against which he 
acts. An offence against the military law is punished by military au- 
thority ; non-observance of the law of the State is punished by the 
civil power ; a sin against the moral order of God must necessarily 
by punished by God. 1 The punishment of mortal sin is twofold, 
thus corresponding to the two elements involved in mortal sin. To 
the rejection of God corresponds the pain of loss, and to the inordinate 
recourse to creatures corresponds the pain of sense. " Depart from 
me, you cursed, into everlasting fire." 2 The eternity of hell, so 
clearly taught in Holy Scripture, arises from the fact that the loss of 
grace is irreparable, as far as the sinner is concerned, and also from 
the doctrine that there can be no repentance after death. 3 The debt 
of punishment, therefore, remains as long as the will is turned away 
from God. The sinner has indulged his own will in seeking a created 
good, and justice demands that the violated order should be satisfied 
by his suffering something against his will in punishment. In 
breaking the eternal law of God he does not, and cannot, escape 
from it. 

1 The loss of grace being the immediate effect of mortal sin necessarily 
involves eternal separation from God, should the sinner die unrepentant. 
In this sense mortal sin is its own punishment. But it is essential to keep 
well in the foreground the idea of punishment as a penalty exacted and in- 
flicted by God in vindication of the moral order which has been violated. 
Grace is a free gift of God, and, if a soul is deprived of it, the consequence 
of that deprival is a punishment inflicted by the author of grace. 

2 Matt, xxv 41. 

a C/. Essay xxxiii, Eternal Punishment. 


Temporal The liability to eternal punishment is an inevitable accompani- 

puniskment ijient of the act of sin, and the knowledge of it helps the mind to 
understand, not only the malice of sin, but the mercy of God, who 
shows his omnipotence in sparing us. Let us for a moment antic- 
ipate the doctrine to be explained in the next section, and assume 
that by repentance the sinner is again converted to God's friendship. 
The guilt is forgiven and the stain of sin removed from his soul by 
the infusion of sanctifying grace. As a consequence the liability 
to eternal punishment, contracted by the guilt of sin, is completely 
removed, but it does not follow that the repentant sinner is freed 
from the debt of some temporal punishment. By mortal sin both 
justice and friendship have been violated. With the infusion of 
divine grace and charity the soul is restored to God's love and friend- 
ship, but the debt of punishment due to the divine justice remains 
to be paid, not in eternity for eternal separation from God is incon- 
sistent with being in a state of friendship with him but in time. 
The same is true of human friendship which has been broken off by 
some act of injustice on the part of one man against another. The 
offence may be forgiven by the injured person and friendship re- 
stored, but there remains the obligation of making adequate repara- 
tion for the injustice, by restoring, for example, stolen property. 

The sinner may escape the actual infliction of temporal punish- 
ment, but the debt is infallibly contracted by the sinner, and it is for 
this reason that an undertaking to make satisfaction to God is an 
integral part of the act of repentance. It is important to remember 
that when we speak of temporal punishment as an obligation in- 
fallibly and, as it were, automatically incurred, the statement is 
strictly true only with reference to punishment, at least, in a future 
state. The word " temporal " is not to be understood necessarily 
of this life, for it is a fact of experience that the wicked in this 
world often live in great happiness : " their houses are secure and 
peaceable, their children dance and play, they spend their days in 
wealth " ; * so much so that the rest of us who, rightly or wrongly, 
conceive ourselves as just, may be disturbed at the prosperity of 
sinners. 2 

The inevitable nature of the penalty exacted for sin arises from 
a consideration of the divine justice. In his mercy God may accept 
the vicarious satisfaction of others, and has given to the Church 
power to remit temporal punishment by applying to individuals the 
merits of Christ and the saints as satisfaction for their sins. 3 We can 
be absolutely certain that the obligation of undergoing eternal punish- 
ment is entirely remitted when grace is infused into the soul of a re- 
pentant sinner, but to what extent our debt of temporal punishment 
is also remitted we do not, and cannot, know with certainty. As for 
the sufferings of this life, a Christian tries to bear them patiently as 

1 Job xxi 9-13. 2 Ps. Ixxii 3. 

8 Cf. Essay xxvii, The Sacrament of Penance, pp. 976-980. 


making him more conformable to the image of Christ, 1 and he asks 
God to accept them as part of the satisfaction due to his sins. 

These two things, the state of guilt and the liability to punishment, 
are the chief effects of sin in the sinner. The state of soul we have 
described would follow upon one mortal sin, and it is called by theo- 
logians habitual sin in order to distinguish it, as something lasting 
and permanent, from " actual sin " which is the sinful act. We have 
not used the term because it is liable to be confused with the 
" habit of sinning," or the inclination to fall into repeated sins from 
the force of habit. 

But we cannot examine the effects of sin without including Human 
amongst them the " wounds " suffered by our human nature, pri- nature 
marily as a result of original sin, but also, with due proportion, \^ wounded 
consequence of every actual sin committed. 2 The essential prin- 
ciples of our human nature remain intact, but our natural inclination 
to virtue becomes weakened by sin. That inclination itself will 
never be entirely uprooted, but we are so constituted that repeated 
acts of vice form in us an increasing facility or habit in respect of 
those acts. This is, indeed, an evident and a most lamentable effect 
of sin, upon the sinner, and man knows from experience that after 
repeated sins the understanding becomes blind to its evil, the will is 
hardened in malice, resistance is weakened, and passion becomes 
more unruly. But no matter to what extent the sinner may be 
" wounded " in this way, whether by his own sins, or by hereditary 
tendencies due to the sins of his fathers, the essential principles of 
his nature are not corrupted, and he is able, with God's grace, to 
surmount these obstacles and lead a life of heroic sanctity. 

Such are the effects of sin on the sinner. But in our journey other 
towards God we are not walking alone, we are members of one body consequences 
of which Christ is the head. We must remember the effect of sin 
on the passion and death of Christ our Lord, a reflection which can 
easily lead to perfect contrition. The sins of the world, including 
our own sins, were the cause of all the sufferings of Christ. One act 
of God made man would have been sufficient to satisfy the justice 
of God, but Christ was not content with anything short of a perfect 
expression of love for men, and there is no more complete sign of 
love for others than laying down one's life for them. So St Paul 
speaks of the sin of apostasy as " crucifying again the son of God, 
making him a mockery." 3 

Closely connected with this aspect of sin, on which every Chris- 
tian loves to dwell, is the affront which sin offers to the mystical body 
of Christ, the organic union of all the faithful united to Christ their 
head by sanctifying grace. For, sin being the deprivation of grace, 

1 Rom. viii 29. 

2 Cf. Essay x, The Fall of Man and Original Sin, pp. 33^-335* 35^~353- 
8 Heb. vi 6. 


the sinner is a dead and useless member of this body, a withered 
branch of this vine. It is for this reason, perhaps, that in the Con- 
fiteor we acknowledge our guilt not only to God, but to our Lady, 
the Apostles, and all the saints. For the sinner has disfigured the 
body of Christ, the Church, which God desires to be pure and glori- 
ous, " not having in it spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it 
should be holy and without blemish." I 

Enough has been said about the state of sin and its effects to 
enable the mind to understand that it is the greatest of all evils in a 
human being. Just as honour is measured by the dignity of the 
person who gives honour, so is an insult measured by the dignity of 
the person insulted. In this sense sin is an infinite offence against 
the majesty of God. 

If the knowledge we possess, from reason and from revelation, 
concerning the evil of sin, is to be a living force in regulating our 
own, lives, we must, by continual meditation and reflection, bring it 
home to our minds. It is one thing to understand the meaning of 
sin, and view it with abhorrence in general, and say with David, 
" As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing is a child of 
death." 2 It is another thing to hear the accusing voice of the prophet 
saying to us individually, " thou art the man/' and to see our own 
sins passing before our eyes, each an object of our own creation and 
belonging to us more intimately than any other of our possessions. 
The personal realisation of sin is the first preliminary to repentance. 
Before the prodigal son in a far country was inspired to rise again 
and return to his father, he had first to realise his want and hunger, 
and to discover that his sins had degraded him to the level of 
swine. 3 


THE vital element in every movement of man towards God is its 

supernatural character. Our final perfection, and happiness in the 

vision of God is beyond the capabilities of any created nature, unless 

raised and assisted by divine grace. A sinful action which averts 

our souls from God entails the loss of sanctifying grace, and the return 

to God's friendship implies a reinstatement, a reinfusion, of that same 

grace which makes us sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. 

Initial It is not our purpose, in this place, to study the Catholic doctrine 

divine O n grace, 4 but, in order to understand the meaning of repentance, we 

movement mus t a ^ j[ eas t realise that although the human will is the cause of the 

loss of grace by mortal sin, yet the human will cannot, of its own 

power, repair the disaster and restore the intimate friendship with 

God which sin has forfeited. Such would be contrary to the whole 

concept of " grace " as something freely bestowed upon us by God. 

1 Eph. v 27. 2 2 Kings xii 5-7. 

8 Luke xv ii. 4 Cf. . Essays xvi and xvii. 


The first movement of repentance comes not from the sinner, 
but from God : " If anyone says that without the previous inspira- 
tion of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man . . . can repent 
as he ought, so that the grace of justification may be bestowed upon 
him, let him be anathema." 1 The mercy of God anticipates our 
own human action in returning to him : " Convert us, O Lord, to 
thee, and we shall be converted/' 2 Illuminated by this divine action, 
we make an act of faith in God, 3 even though it be merely an act of 
faith in the existence of hell. Then, realising that we are sinners and 
hoping to obtain the divine mercy, we begin to have some initial love 
of God as the fountain of all justice, and because our sins have 
offended God we hate and detest them. 4 

The hatred and detestation of sin, the meaning of which is to be 
explained in this present section, is a necessary disposition in the 
sinner before he can possibly obtain forgiveness of his sins and be 
restored to the grace and friendship of God. For, although it is of 
Catholic faith that the first movement of repentance comes from 
God, it is equally of Catholic faith that the human will must freely 
co-operate with the divine action. " If anyone saith that man's free 
will, moved and excited by God, by assenting to the divine move- 
ment and inspiration does not co-operate towards disposing and pre- 
paring itself for the grace of justification ... let him be anathema/' 5 
The actual grace of God, given to us solely through the merits of 
Christ our Lord, is necessary for disposing the soul to be received 
again into the friendship of God as an adopted son ; the free move- 
ment of the human will hating and detesting sin is also indispensable. 

In the present section we have to examine all that is involved in Detestation 
this act of detesting sin, which, from whatever motive it may arise, f sm 
and whether made in sacramental confession or not, is called " re- 
pentance." It is an act which disposes the sinner to receive com- 
plete forgiveness, and it is simply as a predisposing condition to the 
infusion of grace that we now consider it. In the next section we 
shall see how this act of repentance leads to complete forgiveness and 
the infusion of grace, either through sacramental absolution or as a 
result of what is known as an act of perfect contrition, carrying with 
it at least an implicit desire for the sacrament. 

If repentance is to have any value as a salutary act, that is to say, 
as contributing to the restoration of grace in the soul, it must consist 
of sorrow and detestation for our past sins as oifences against the law 
of God, accompanied by the resolution to amend our lives and make 
satisfaction. Its chief characteristic, and one upon which all the 
others turn, is the voluntary detestation of, or aversion from, the sin 

1 Council of Trent, sess. vi, can. 3. 

2 Lam. v 21. 8 Heb. xi 6. 

* Cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, chap, v, q. 8 ; Council 
of Trent, sess. vi, chap. 6. 

6 Council of Trent, sess. vi, can. 4. 

Purpose of 
und satis- 


committed. The doctrine of the early Protestant reformers, which 
is doubtless held by many non- Catholics at the present day, placed 
the chief element of repentance, not in the act of the will deliberately 
detesting sin, but rather in the change of mind by which a sinner, 
from being in a state of terror and remorse, now believes or trusts 
that his sins have been remitted through the mediation of Christ. 1 
They regarded dwelling on the sins of the past, in order to detest 
them, and especially reflection on the state of sin with its liability to 
eternal punishment, as useless sorrow and hypocrisy. 2 Consequently 
the whole stress in the idea of repentance was placed on leading a new 
life, to the exclusion of making satisfaction, whether voluntarily 
undertaken or imposed by the Church, for the sins of the past. 3 

Quite apart from any consideration of the teaching of Holy 
Scripture, it will be seen that the Catholic doctrine is a logical and 
necessary deduction from the nature of sin, as we have already ex- 
plained it, and it is evident also from an analogy with human friend- 
ship which has been broken off by a grave and deliberate offence. 
The sinner, having rejected God to find satisfaction in created things, 
cannot hope for forgiveness unless he first detests that which has been 
the cause of his separation from God, or is at least prepared to detest 
it as soon as it is recalled to his memory. If the evil of sin is under- 
stood, detestation, of it is accompanied by sorrow when once we re- 
cognise either that the evil is actually present, or that it has been 
present at some time or other in our lives. The resojution to change 
one's life is excellent, and is necessarily involved in the act of re- 
pentance ; but how is it possible to elect to change one's life, in the 
sense of avoiding sin, without at the same time realising that our 
former life was evil, and, if evil, a matter for detestation and sorrow ? 

So the great penitents in Holy Scripture are shown to us sorrowing 
and detesting their sins as a necessary prelude to the resolution of 
leading a new life and of making satisfaction,. " I know my iniquity, 
and my sin is always before me ... a contrite and humble heart, 
O God, thou wilt not despise." 4 " The soul that is sorrowful for 
the greatness of the evil she hath done . . . giveth glory and justice 
to thee." 5 "I am confounded and ashamed because I have borne 
the reproach of my youth." 6 In the New Testament, the tears of 
Peter 7 and of Magdalen 8 and the grief of the prodigal son, 9 are 
familiar examples of true repentance. 

Into this act of detestation and sorrow for sin there necessarily 
enters a resolution to amend one's life in the future, and to make 
whatever satisfaction the justice of God may require. We must not 
conceive the detestation of sin and the purpose of amendment and of 
making satisfaction as three entirely separate elements in repentance ; 

1 C/. Council of Trent, sess. xiv, can. 4. 
8 Cf. Council of Trent, sess. vi, can. 13. 
5 Baruch ii 18. 
7 Luke xxii 62. 8 Luke vii 44. 

a Ibid., can. 5. 
4 Ps. 1 5, 19- 
8 Jer. xxxi 19. 
" Luke xv 21. 


they are so joined and connected that one is not present unless the 
others enter, at least implicitly, into the act ; that is to say, if a person 
is truly sorry for his past sins, he necessarily undertakes to amend his 
life and make satisfaction, even though he does not at the moment 
directly advert to these obligations. For it is impossible for the sinner 
really to detest sin unless at the same time he undertakes to avoid it in 
future. ^ Similarly detestation of sin implies a realisation of respon- 
sibility in deliberately breaking the law of God. In sinning against 
God we are sinning against a legislator who has attached a sanction 
to his laws, both as a deterrent from future sin, and as part of the order 
of bis eternal justice. In the previous section sufficient has been 
said about this liability to punishment incurred by the sinner, and 
there is no need to refer to the subject again. But, concerning the 
true sorrow and the true purpose of amendment which are involved 
in repentance, there still remain some necessary observations to make. 

In the first place, the reason for which sin is detested must be mQualities of 
some way concerned with God against whom sin has been com- truerep ^ lt ' 
mitted. It would be therefore altogether inadequate for a person "m&idment 
to detest sin because it results in such consequences as the loss of 
reputation, or bodily disease ; but any salutary motive suffices. 
Reflections on the disorder of the state of sin, the fear of God's 
punishment, even on the temporal punishments of this world, pro- 
vided they are conceived in the light of faith as being inflicted by 
God in vindication of his justice, are adequate motives. Still more, 
such considerations as the effect of sin orf the passion of Christ, the 
contempt and ingratitude and rebellion against God, and all the de- 
formity involved in acting against his eternal law, are excellent motives 
for detesting sin. The supreme motive is to base our repentance on 
the love of God for his own sake, the act known as perfect contrition, 
which is the subject of the next section. 

It is necessary, in addition, that the sinner should detest sin 
" above all things," as we say in the act of contrition. This does not 
mean that we must have feelings of sorrow and repulsion regarding sin 
greater than our feelings with regard to any other evil ; for repentance 
proceeds essentially from the intellect and will, although it generally 
happens that our emotions share in the sorrow elicited, and there is 
a prayer in the liturgy asking for the gift of tears to bewail our sins. 
The phrase " above all things " means that in the judgement of the 
intellect we estimate sin to be greater than any other evil, and as a 
consequence of this intellectual judgement the will detests sin more 
than, any other evil. Such a judgement and consequent detestation 
must necessarily follow from all that has been said about sin and its 

It is not only unnecessary, but altogether imprudent and unwise, 
to attempt to test the sincerity of this judgement by making com- 
parisons between the evil of sin and the evil of undergoing some 
terrible torture, and asking whether the torture would be chosen 


rather than the sin. For an imminent sensible evil causes more 
vehement feelings of fear at the moment, and may interfere with the 
judgement of the mind. It is sufficient to prefer any evil in general 
to the evil of sin, without descending to particular comparisons. 
" The contrite sinner," says St Thomas, " must in general be pre- 
pared to suffer any pain rather than commit sin, but he is not bound 
to make a particular comparison between this pain or that pain. 
On the contrary, it is foolish to question oneself or other persons on 
the choice that would be made if confronted with any particular 
suffering. " 1 

The detestation of which we are speaking must extend to each 
and every mortal sin we have committed. For each of them, taken 
singly, has grievously offended God ; each one is sufficient of itself 
to cause the loss of grace and divine friendship. We have already 
seen that it is impossible for one mortal sin to be forgiven without the 
others, since in the supernatural order the remission of sin is equiva- 
lent to the infusion of grace into the soul. If the soul remains un- 
repentant of one mortal sin, it is not yet disposed for the infusion of 
grace. One must be careful not to misunderstand the meaning of 
this doctrine. God does not expect us to do what is morally im- 
possible. Our sorrow is held to extend to all the mortal sins we have 
committed, even if, after a reasonable examination of conscience, 
some sins may have escaped our memory. Moreover, as will be ex- 
plained in the next section, the act of perfect charity, by which the 
soul loves God above all things and for his own sake, so disposes 
the soul with regard to its last end, that it would at once detest any 
sin which is recalled to the memory, even though, when the act of 
perfect charity was made, the sinner did not explicitly think of any 
particular past sin. Detestation of sin is implicitly contained in the 
act of perfect charity. 

To turn now to the purpose of amendment, it will be perceived 
at once that, if sorrow for past sin really has all the fulness which we 
have attempted to analyse, it must necessarily follow that the will at 
the same time undertakes to avoid that sin in the future. In very 
many cases of true repentance the mind does not advert explicitly to the 
purpose of amendment : it is contained implicitly within the act of 
sorrow and detestation, and it would be unnecessarily rigorous to 
require it to be made explicitly in each case. Why, then, must we 
subject the matter to a still further examination ? Because the 
detestation of past sin and the purpose of amendment are so 
closely connected that, especially in cases of repeated sin, the 
purpose of amendment may be an indication of the sincerity of our 



For this reason it is advisable always to make it explicitly as we 
find it in the formula of the act of contrition. Moreover, whenever 
a repentant sinner, looking into the future, foresees the possibility 
1 Quodlibet., I, art. ix ; Parma, vol. ix, p. 465. 


of repeating the offence, the omission of an explicit resolution to 
avoid it might argue an insufficient detestation of his sin. 

Let us try to see more exactly all that is implied in this resolution. 
The will must firmly elect to suffer any evil in general rather than 
offend God again, either by the same offence or in any other way. 
At the time of repentance it is possible by an act of the will to make 
this firm resolution, even though the intellect, from past experience, 
foresees the possibility of sinning again. The knowledge that the 
same sin has been committed so often in the past need not exclude 
from the act of repentance a firm purpose for the future, especially 
when it is united to a strong trust in the mercy of God, who will not 
suffer us to be tempted more than we are able. 1 It must also be an 
efficacious resolution ; that is to say, the will must elect to adopt the 
necessary means for avoiding future sin, especially by keeping away 
from the occasions which lead to it. 

Hence the practical value of a most careful consideration of all 
that is meant by the purpose of amendment. Repeated falls even 
into the same sin do not necessarily argue a defective purpose or a 
defective sorrow ; it may have been a good act of repentance at the 
time, though subsequent temptation, human infirmity, and the force 
of habit have induced the will once more to consent to sin. But, in 
a given instance, the lack of purpose in avoiding an unnecessary 
occasion of sin, which could easily be put aside, must sooner or later 
bring the repentant sinner to review his supposed sorrow, and to ask 
himself whether his alleged detestation of sin is an illusion. It is a 
momentous question to answer, for repentance, as we have described 
it, is a condition which is absolutely necessary for salvation in an adult 
who has committed mortal sin. 

Whether God, of his absolute power, could forgive sin and infuse Necessity of 
grace into the soul of a person who has not repented, is extremely repentance 
doubtful. But the question is not what God could do, but what he 
actually does in the present order of his providence, as revealed to 
us in Holy Scripture and defined by the Church. For while, on the 
one hand, it is certain that man could not, of his own power, attain 
to his supernatural end without the assistance of God's grace, it is 
equally certain that an adult who has come to the use of reason must 
reach his last end in a manner which is in accordance with his nature, 
by freely co-operating with divine grace. He must, that is to say, 
dispose himself for justification by doing what is possible for a human 
being to do. For a person who is in a state of mortal sin, the only 
part of the process of justification that is possible is to detest the sin he 
has committed. If he were relieved of the necessity of making at 
least this act of repentance, and so disposing his soul for the reception 
of grace, he would then perfect his being and realise the purpose 
of his existence without contributing anything whatever to the pro- 
cess. This would probably be intrinsically impossible, for it would 

1 1 Cor. x 13. 


not be in keeping with the order of things, as we know them, in which 
everything attains the purpose for which it was created by acting in 
accordance with its nature. The movement of God, in the order 
of supernatural grace, anticipates every human action : " No one can 
come to me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him " ; 1 but 
it is a movement perfecting, not destroying, the free will of our nature, 
which must co-operate with divine grace. 

The doctrine is evident in the pages of Holy Scripture, and from 
the lives of the great penitents. " You have said : The way of the 
Lord is not right. ... Is it my way that is not right, and are not 
rather your ways perverse ? For when the just turneth himself 
away from his justice, and committeth iniquity, he shall die therein 
. . . and when the wicked turneth himself away from his wickedness 
... he shall save his soul alive." 2 Therefore Christ warned all 
sinners that unless they repent they will all perish. 3 The necessity 
of repentance as a condition for the remission of sin is absolute : 
" Repentance was at all times necessary, in order to obtain grace and 
justification, for all men who have defiled themselves by mortal 


1 4 

But if actual grace is necessary for repentance, it is a grace which 
is never refused to one who asks. " Converte nos, Deus," is a prayer 
continually found throughout the Divine Office, and there is a very 
striking prayer in the Missal which asks God in his mercy to compel 
our stubborn wills to turn again to him. 6 

Sin is disruptive of divine charity. By repentance the sinner 
detests the cause of so great a disaster. But of all the various motives 
which give rise to this detestation there is one which is the highest 
and noblest that the human mind can conceive. It is the love of 
God for his own sake. 


Connection A PERSON tied to a post cannot reach another position until he is 
with the freed from his bonds. By mortal sin we are bound in a state of 
Penance"* slavery until we break those bonds by repentance, 6 and are free to be 
united again in friendship with God. There is no middle state in 
which we can rest, as it were, in a condition of neutrality, neither in 
a state of grace nor in a state of sin. A sinner who has detested bis 
sin and promised amendment and satisfaction has disposed his soul 
fdr justification, but he is not yet restored to a state of grace. With 
the effects of sin still remaining in his soul he still awaits the divine 
forgiveness which will effect complete reconciliation by the infusion 
of sanctifying grace. This grace is given solely through the merits 
of Jesus Christ our Lord, and the channel by which it reaches us is 

1 John vi 44. z Ezech. xviii 25-27. 

8 Luke xiii 3. 4 Council of Trent, sess. xiv, chap. 4. 

6 Secret, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. 6 Rom. vi. 


the sacrament of Penance instituted by Christ for the purpose. In 
this sacrament a priest, authorised by the Church, and acting in the 
name and person of Christ, absolves the sinner from his sins. 

We need not be concerned with discussing all the possible ways 
in which God could forgive sin ; we know from God's revelation that 
the sins of the whole world, even before Christ's coming, are forgiven 
through Christ, " in whom we have redemption through his blood, 
the remission of sins." x Nor need we try to imagine other ways in 
which the merits of Christ might have been applied to those who 
have committed mortal sin after Baptism ; we know that Christ, 
" who did all things well," 2 has left with his Church the power of 
loosing from sin. 3 By mortal sin grace, which unites us all as one 
body in Christ, is lost, and the soul becomes a dead and useless mem- 
ber of that mystical body. It was altogether fitting, if one may so 
speak of the actions of him " in whom are hid all the treasures of 
wisdom and knowledge," 4 that a sinner should be reunited to the 
body of Christ through the authority of that body on earth, exercised 
by men who, in spite of their own sins and unworthiness, are am- 
bassadors of Christ 5 and dispensers of the mysteries of God. 6 And 
if we reflect more deeply upon all that it means to be a member of the 
body of Christ, we shall begin to see why it is that our sins will not 
be forgiven unless we forgive others their trespasses against us. 
Christ, therefore, has determined that the repentant sinner will find 
forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, and unless sorrow for sin 
has some relation to the sacrament it will not issue in the infusion of 
sanctifying grace. But what this connection and relation is will differ 
according to a person's knowledge and opportunities. 

Every Catholic is aware that perfect contrition remits sin even 
before the sin has been confessed. But this emphatically does not 
mean that it is forgiven apart from all connection with the sacrament. 
A Catholic, who knows of his obligation to submit all mortal sins to 
the power of the keys, does not make an act of perfect contrition 
unless he intends to confess his sins at a convenient opportunity. 
For since the sacrament of Penance is the method instituted by Christ 
for the remission of sin, no sinner could be called contrite who de- 
clined to do what God has laid down as the way to forgiveness : such 
an attitude would at least argue a lack of the proper undertaking to 
make satisfaction, which is a necessary condition of repentance. A 
non-Catholic, whom we will assume to be in good faith and mculpably 
ignorant of the obligation of confession, nevertheless establishes some 
implicit connection between his repentance and the sacrament of 
Penance. For in repenting of his sins, on a motive of perfect con- 
trition, he must necessarily undertake, as part of his satisfaction, to do 
whatever Christ has determined to be necessary for forgiveness. 

1 Col. i 14. 2 Mark vii 37. 

8 C/l Essay xxvii. 4 Col. ii 3. 

* a Cor. v 20. * i Cor. iv i. 


Implied in this purpose, did he but know it, is the resolution to con- 
fess his sins as soon as his conscience appreciates the obligation. 

It would be quite erroneous, therefore, to suppose that there are 
various ways open to sinners in obtaining forgiveness, of which the 
sacrament of Penance is one ; for the Church teaches clearly and 
definitely that although perfect contrition reconciles man to God 
before the sacrament has been received, yet it does so only by virtue 
of the desire for the sacrament, which is included, at least implicitly, 
in the act of contrition itself. 1 

Perfect love Contrition is called perfect when the motive which causes the 
of God w ju to Detest s in is the love of God for his own sake : it is called im- 
perfect, or " attrition, 71 when the motive is something quite distinct 
from this love of God ; for example, the deformity of sin or the fear 
of hell. Any attempt, therefore, to understand more closely what is 
meant by perfect contrition, is equivalent to enquiring what is meant 
by the love of God or charity. 

Any love for example, the love of a son for his parents can be 
of a twofold character. As a small child he loves them solely because 
they are good to him, a comfort in pain, a protection in the troubles 
of life, a never-failing source from which he draws everything neces- 
sary for his life and happiness. But gradually and imperceptibly this 
selfish kind of love should yield to a love which is more generous and 
is concerned more with giving than receiving, more with doing them 
some good than in self-seeking. The love existing between two 
persons who discover that they are mutually an advantage to each 
other is an excellent thing, but if the basis of mutual love turns on 
each person desiring and trying to do the highest amount of good to 
the other, generously, unselfishly, and constantly, there exists a per- 
fect friendship, than which there is nothing more beautiful in human 
intercourse. Such love existing between the soul and God is so 
priceless and dear that we give it the special name of " charity." 

Passing over, for the moment, any discussions that might arise, 
and confining ourselves to what is completely certain, we may say 
that contrition is perfect when its motive is a love of God, not of the 
mercenary kind, based on the consideration that he is good to us, 
but an unselfish love which we conceive for him because he is good 
and lovable for his own sake, a love whereby we rejoice in his infinite 
perfections, wishing him well, and desiring him to be known and loved 
by all men. When we speak of perfect contrition we mean repentance 
and sorrow for sin based on this motive : the repentance, for example, 
of the woman to whom many sins were forgiven because she loved 
much. 2 

In a less strict sense, although identical effects result in the soul, 
an act of perfect love of God in which there is no explicit reference 
to past sin may also be called an act of perfect contrition ; for it is 

1 Council of Trent, sess. xiv, chap. 4. 

2 Luke vii 47. 


impossible for a sinner to elicit this perfect love for God without also 
repenting of his sins, did he but advert to them. 1 

In both cases, according to Catholic doctrine, the act of perfect 
contrition results in immediate justification of the, it being 
presumed that all the requisite qualities of true repentance, as ex- 
plained in the last section, are at least implicitly present. By the 
infusion of grace and charity the soul becomes once more a friend of 
God, a member of Christ's mystical body, and an heir with Christ to 
life eternal. 

It must not be supposed that an act of perfect contrition is in 
itself the cause of effecting reconciliation with God, for this, since it 
entails the infusion of grace, is in God's free disposition and beyond 
the capabilities of any creature. But since God never refuses grace 
to any man who does all that he is able to do, it is altogether in ac- 
cordance with his infinite mercy and goodness that grace should not 
be withheld from one who has made the highest possible endeavour 
to reach God that any creature can make. Perfect contrition, there- 
fore, though not the cause of justification, is nevertheless so perfect 
a disposition in the sinner as to call infallibly for the restoration of 
God's friendship. God's love, it is true, has never faltered, for it is 
extended to all, even to sinners ; 2 yet friendship does not exist until 
love is mutual, and charity is nothing else than friendship between 
God and man. " If any man love me, my Father will love him : and 
we will come to him and make our abode with him." 8 

The Coxmcil of Trent, in expressing the constant teaching and 
tradition of the Church, takes it for granted that contrition, which is 
perfect through charity, reconciles man with God before the sacra- 
ment of Penance is actually received. 4 The doctrine is certain if by 
charity is meant the love of God because he is good in himself, not 
merely because he is good to us. It is only contrition elicited on this 
motive which is properly called " perfect," and which, in the teaching 
of the Church, certainly leads to justification. 5 

* It is doubtful, however, whether the sorrow for past sin implicitly con- 
tained in an act of perfect love of God suffices for the effect of the sacrament 
of Penance, since, as is explained in Essay xxvii, the sorrow of the penitent 
is part of the ** matter " of this sacrament. 

a Rom. v 8 ; x John iv xo. 

s John xiv s. * Sess. xiv, chap. iv. 

6 Some writers, wishing to render an act of perfect contrition as easy as 
possible, allow the possibility of perfect contrition in the love ot Grod tor 
selfish motives, i.e., because union with him constitutes eternal happiness lor 
us, or because our souls are even now thirsting for the living God like the 
hart panting after the fountains of water (Ps. xli i). But this cannot be re- 
garded with certainty as sufficient for an act of perfect contrition, and in a 
matter of such grave moment we cannot be satisfied with anything less than 
certainty* Such lesser motives are excellent : they help the sinner to detest 
sin above all things, and they lead to perfect contrition. But we cannot help 
seeing on reflection that there is very little difference between love of God, 
conceived for a selfish motive, and the fear of hell. It is salutary sorrow 
for sin, but is imperfect, not perfect. 


Imperfect For the word " perfect " implies that nothing is wanting in the 

love of God action, and that its fulness is complete and entire. But if the motive 
of contrition is anything short of God's own self, it is evidently not as 
perfect as it might be. 1 Thus an imperfect motive of contrition 
might easily be the desire to render to God something due to him, on 
a title of justice, obedience, or gratitude. It can be understood, 
from an analogy with purely human relations, that a man might be 
ready to make reparation to another because he is in his debt or sub- 
ject to his authority, or because he has received favours from his 
hands. Yet, while doing this, he might feel wholly unable to regret 
his offence out of regard for the personal qualities and excellence of 
the other person. 

Still more easily can it be seen that to seek reconciliation with an 
injured friend, because the loss of his friendship is a grave incon- 
venience, is a motive which leaves an enormous amount to be desired. 
Nevertheless, as will be shown more fully in the essay on The Sacra- 
ment of Penance? the fear of hell, or any other less noble motive 
leading us to detest sin, suffices, provided the sacrament is not merely 
desired but actually received. The only point necessary to notice 
here is that the justification of the sinner, whether in the case of 
perfect contrition or in the reception, of the sacrament of Penance, 
is brought about in both cases by the infusion of sanctifying grace. 
But the means by which that grace is given is in one case the reception 
of a sacrament of the New Law, one of the seven signs instituted by 
Christ as channels of divine grace, external signs which by virtue of 
their own action as instruments in the hands of Christ convey grace 
from the head to the members of his body. In the other case the 
grace of justification is given to a man who by his own activity, under 
the divine inspiration, has so disposed his soul by doing all that it is 
possible for him to do, that God immediately gives the grace of his 

The more perfect our contrition is, in receiving the sacrament, 
the more pleasing it is to God and the more grace is received. For 
a soul already justified by perfect contrition, in, receiving the sacra- 
ment receives still more grace, and becomes more deeply rooted aixd 
grounded in charity. 

How to make It should therefore be our constant care to make more and more 

an act of perfect the motive of our sorrow for sin. It is difficult in the sense 

Contrition &** P ei "fect contrition requires complete detachment from our sins, 

and careful reflection on divine things, which in the modern rush of 

life is not always easy to secure ; it is difficult, too, because it is not 

1 It is, of course, possible to elicit perfect contrition by a consideration 
of any one attribute of God his benignity or his mercy, for example 
provided it is considered as a divine perfection, and not merely as some- 
thing very advantageous to ourselves. The reason for this is that the 
attributes of God, which the human mind regards separately, are not really 
distinct in God. Cf. Essay iii, The One God, p. 92. 

2 P. 971. 


easy to break away from selfish and excessive preoccupation with our 
own advantage and happiness, even in matters religious. But, 
granted a certain degree of generosity towards God, it should be 
comparatively easy gradually to purify our motives and arrive almost 
imperceptibly at perfect contrition. 

In a matter that concerns so intimately the internal dispositions 
of each soul it is not possible to suggest any definite rule : each person 
must follow the line of thought which is most suitable in leading him 
to perfect contrition. The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom, 
and the thought of eternal separation from God would usually be the 
starting-point. A further step would be to think of the pain of loss 
as being inflicted by one who loves us with infinite love. Sin is an 
offence and an insult against God, for whom we should have nothing 
but gratitude in return for all his favours, both spiritual and temporal, 
and above all for his unspeakable gift of grace by which we are made 
his adopted sons in Christ. 1 " How hath he not also with him given 
us all things ? " 2 Have we made any return for these gifts, or are all 
our prayers invariably petitions for further favours ? God has been 
good to us, but why ? Not because there is anything beautiful or 
lovable about us apart from our union with Christ, for whose sake 
God loves us. 8 No matter how we look at it, there is nothing in us that 
we have not received from God, 4 nothing intrinsic to our own deeds 
to cause God to treat us with such benignity. Why, then, is God 
good to us ? For no other reason than because he is good in. himself. 

Nor is this divine goodness something abstract which we can get 
to know and understand only by a process of philosophic thought. 
He was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, grew weary in seeking us, 
shed tears for us, suffered and died for us. Yet this infinite goodness 
we have insulted and offended by mortal sin. ... By such gradual 
and easy steps as these it is possible to develop the motive of con- 
trition from the notion of fear to that of love of God for his own sake. 
It is only on elevated motives of this kind that we can gradually per- 
fect our lives, not only by avoiding mortal sin, but by gradually 
eliminating all trace even of deliberate venial sin. Most of all, it is 
on this motive alone that we shall begin to understand the infinite 
mercy of God in granting the gift of repentance, from its first stirring 
in our souls to its completion in the infusion of divine grace. For it 
is chiefly by sparing and having mercy upon us that God manifests 
his almighty power. 6 


WE have already recalled the fact that the word " sin " is used only A $m cow- 
analogously of venial offences. That is to say, there is a certain re- 
semblance between mortal sin and venial sin, inasmuch as each is 

1 2 Cor. ix 15. a Rom. viii 32, 8 John xvi 27. * i Cor, iv 7. 
6 Collect, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost. tt Above, p. 924. 


offence against the law of God. There Is, however, a vital difference 
between them, and that difference it is our object here to ex- 

Christ our Lord in his parables often likened the life of our souls 
to the growth of plants or trees. In the case of these it is often pos- 
sible to detect some radical defect or disease which will prevent them 
from ever reaching maturity. Sometimes, on the other hand, one 
may find minor blemishes say in a rose-tree, which will not hinder 
its ultimate blossoming, but which make it less lovely and beautiful 
in the eyes of an expert. It would be true to say that the law of the 
plant's growth requires the absence not only of radical disease, but 
of minor defects also. But it would be much more accurate to- regard 
as, strictly speaking, against the law of its nature only those defects 
which prevent its growth to maturity. No one could refuse to call it 
a rose-tree simply because the scent and cplour of its blossoms were 
not up to the desired standard. 

It is rather similar with the individual soul. It would be true to 
say that the slightest transgression is against the law of God, but it 
would be much more accurate to say that only those breaches of the 
law are to be regarded, in the strict sense of the words, as against the 
law of God which prevent a man from attaining his last end ; that is 
to say, only those sins which are disruptive of divine charity, and 
which entail the loss of grace and the liability to eternal separation 
from God. 

Like all examples taken to illustrate doctrines, the example of a 
plant's growth is necessarily imperfect, but it serves to explain the 
difference between mortal and venial sin. There are many minor 
offences, forbidden indeed by the law of God, but which do not so 
radically upset the established moral order as to make the attainment 
of man's last end impossible. They offend God, but do not offend 
him to the extent of breaking off the union of charity existing between 
our souls and him ; and siace union with God is the end of our exist- 
ence, they are not strictly against the law of God. 

If it is asked why this is so, one can only answer by asking why 
it is that the germs of certain diseases will utterly prevent a plant 
from growing to maturity, while other noxious germs are not so de- 
structive. God has so fashioned human nature, and so raised it to 
a supernatural state, that certain culpable departures from the law 
which governs man's being have the effect of preventing his end and 
purpose in life from being realised. " Thy hands have made me 
and formed me : give me understanding, and I will learn thy com- 
mandments." x 

Man may wilfully transgress the divine law in various ways, but, 
provided the principle of his supernatural life is not destroyed, he 
still remains properly disposed towards God, his last end and happi- 
ness, and the effects of such actions are not of their nature irreparable, 

1 Ps. cxviii 73. 


precisely because the principle of divine grace and charity is not lost. 
Thus a mathematician engaged in the solution of a difficult problem 
may make small errors, but, if the principles on which his calculations 
rest are sound, he can easily retrace his steps and correct the mistakes 
he has made. Even the healthiest persons suffer some disease or 
illness at some time or other, but their own strength and vitality 
suffice to enable them to recover from the ill effects ; if, however, 
the disease is one which has destroyed the life of some vital organ, 
then nothing short of a miracle will restore them to health. 

Those sins, therefore, which do not involve the loss of grace, and 
whose effects can be repaired by the supernatural principle of grace 
and charity, which still remain in the soul, are called " venial." The 
word itself, which is derived from venia, " pardon," could equally be 
used, and was so used by early writers, with reference to repented 
mortal sin, for there is no sin which God will not forgive. But, 
inasmuch as the liability to eternal punishment, the necessary effect 
of mortal sin, is not incurred except by the loss of grace, any sin 
which does not merit eternal punishment is of its nature worthy of 
pardon, and the term " venial " is properly applied to it. For no 
matter how long or how grievous the temporal punishment due to 
such sins may be, the soul must iixevitably reach its last end, as long as 
it does not suffer the loss of sanctifying grace. He who sins venially 
is retarded on his journey towards God, but, unlike a person in mortal 
sin, who is averted from his last end, he remains on the way which 
leads to God and will eventually possess him. " For although, 
during this mortal life, men, no matter how holy and just they may 
be, fall daily into small sins, which are called venial, they do not 
thereby cease to be just." * ^ . 

If, therefore, we compare venial and mortal sin from the point of 
view of their effects on the soul, the complete difference between 
the two is apparent. But when we examine venial sin from the angle 
of the person sinning, it appears, at first sight, that in electing to turn 
inordinately to creatures in a manner forbidden by the divine law, 
the sinner shows that, in putting his own will above the will of God, 
he is choosing some creature instead of God. 

If this conclusion were true an4 necessary it would be difficult to 
see how venial sin differs from mortal sin. The phrase " the will of 
God " means, however, in this connection, something which God has 
forbidden, and we cannot draw any conclusions at all until we have 
determined whether a thing is forbidden by God under the pam of 
forfeiting the divine friendship or not. Acts forbidden as vernal sins 
are of such character that they do not forfeit the divme friendship, 
and it is because the sinner is aware of this that it is possible for him 
to offend God and at the same time remain united to him. 

The same is true of human friendships. A person might easily 
displease his friend in many minor matters, but would never run 
1 Council of Trent, sess. vi chap. 9. 


the risk of destroying the friendship altogether by doing things which 
he foresaw would have this result. So also in the case of a person 
committing venial sin. He is so disposed towards God that if he 
thought that a breach of the divine law would result in the loss of 
divine grace and charity, he would not commit it for any reason 

From such considerations as these it will be evident that an er- 
roneous conscience has a most important influence in determining 
the existence of mortal sin. If a person is so invincibly ignorant that 
he is in good faith in thinking that an action which is objectively 
grave is no more than venial sin, then venial sin is actually committed 
owing to the error. Similarly the persuasion that an action is mortally 
sinful constitutes mortal sin in the person who commits it, even 
though his mind was in error in making the judgement. 

Also it is most important to recall the necessity of advertence and 
consent for mortal sin even when there is no sort of error concerning 
the objective malice of the offence. It can be said with certainty that 
many offences fall short of the complete malice of mortal sin owing 
to the consent being, on various counts, defective. We talk of " fall- 
ing into " mortal sin, but no one can. fall into it in the sense of doing 
it accidentally and unawares. It can be said with equal certainty 
that the real issue is known to God alone, the searcher of hearts. 
Unless the venial or mortal nature of a sin is abundantly evident, it 
is a dangerous procedure for the human mind to attempt to diagnose 
the guilt, even in one's own sins ; and still more dangerous regarding 
the sins of other people. There are numerous cases in which the 
border-line cannot be accurately determined; for example, in de- 
ciding on the consent given to evil thoughts, or in determining the 
gravity of theft. The only safe rule is expressly to repent of any sin 
which might conceivably be grave, and to confess it as such. 
Effects Let us now examine more closely the effects of venial sin upon 
the soul. In the first place, sanctifying grace is not lost by any 
offence short of mortal sin, and, inasmuch as the " stain " of sin is 
nothing else than the privation of grace, it follows that venial sin does 
not, strictly speaking, cause a staia, which we have already seen to be 
the consequence of mortal sin. 1 

Venial sin is opposed to the charity which should exist between 
the soul and God, not in the sense that it is inconsistent with the 
habitual state of grace by which we are united to God's love through 
a vivifying union with Christ, but in the sense that the acts prompted 
by the virtue of charity are rendered by venial sin less fervent in their 

The distinction turns on the difference between habitual grace 

with the attendant virtue of charity, which every soul well ordered 

towards its last end possesses, and the fervour of the acta elicited by 

the soul in that state. The effect of mortal sin is to destroy habitual 

1 Above, pp. 930 ff. 


grace and charity, a privation which is called in the Scriptures the 
stain of sin ; the effect of venial sin is to impede the fervour of the 
acts of a person, who, while possessing the intrinsic state of friendship 
with God, nevertheless directs his actions to the attainment of his 
last end only remissly and tardily. 

Just as the word " sin " applies strictly to mortal sin and only 
analogously to venial sin, so also, if we prefer to use the word " stain " 
in order to express the effect of venial sin on the soul, it can be used 
only analogously and imperfectly. There is all the difference in the 
world between a child who cannot leap and jump owing to ? crippled 
state of limb, and one who is merely suffering from languor and dis- 
inclination. In the one case it is due to a permanent and habitual 
disorder, in the other case the lassitude can be overcome with a little 
effort. We must therefore remove altogether from our consideration 
of venial sin and its effects the notion of stain resulting from the pri- 
vation of grace, and, as a consequence, the liability to eternal punish- 
ment incurred by a soul in that state. We can see that from venial 
sin there results in the sinner the obligation of acknowledging his 
guilt and the debt of punishment. There is guilt because venial 
sin, is a breach of the divine law and displeases God, though not to 
the extent of destroying his friendship. There is also the debt of 
punishment, for the divine order has been disturbed and the sinner 
must restore that order by undergoing a penalty proportionate to the 
offence, even though the punishment is of a temporal nature. 

These two things, guilt and punishment, are the two immediate 
effects of venial sin. But before we discuss repentance as applied 
to these offences we must be aware of certain possibilities arising from 
deliberate venial sin. It is very necessary to establish a clear and 
definite division between mortal and venial sin, but in doing so we 
must beware lest the mind imperceptibly and almost unconsciously 
should form a judgement that venial sin is a trifling matter of no 
consequence whatever. 

The remarks we have to make apply only to deliberate offences. 
We have already seen * that venial sin may arise from insufficient 
advertence and consent, fleeting thoughts, sudden access of passion, 
unthinking and indeliberate movements which are rejected almost 
as soon as they are experienced. With regard to venial sins of this 
kind it is the accepted teaching of the Church that not even the holiest 
person can altogether avoid them. But with deliberate venial sin a 
small theft, for example our judgement must be altogether different. 

It follows from the nature of venial sin that no number of such 
offences will ever be equivalent to one mortal sin. But indirectly, 
and as a consequence, deliberate venial sin will lead to mortal sin. 
Nemo fit repente pes$mus~-ru>body becomes evil all at once. It is a 
slow and gradual process which leads the will eventually to commit 
mortal sin. Deliberate transgression of the law of God in small 

* Pp. 9^8-929. 


matters causes a habit of mind which grows accustomed to deflections 
from the moral order, and gradually disposes the sinner to depart 
from it in a serious matter. Imperceptibly a state of mind is gene- 
rated which is set on discovering to what extent the law of God can 
be broken without committing grave sin. It is betrayed by a certain 
theological dexterity in trying to discover the least obligation con- 
sistent with remaining in a state of grace. Is it necessary to point 
out that a person walking on the edge of a precipice is in danger of 
falling over ? " He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful 
also in that which is greater : and he that is unjust in that which is 
little is unjust also in that which is greater." x It is because we are 
creatures of habit, and because each deliberate sin paves the way to 
one slightly graver, that spiritual writers often refer to venial sin in 
terms which to the unthinking appear exaggerated. There is no 
need of warning from spiritual writers. Everyone knows from his 
own experience, and from the experience of others, that the commis- 
sion of mortal sin is the result of a series of deliberate transgressions 
in smaller matters. 

The important thing is to purge the soul from what St Francis 
de Sales calls the " aifection " for venial sin, which he describes 
as the chief obstacle to that devotion which consists in a ready and 
willing service of God. " They weaken the strength of the spirit, 
hinder the divine consolations, open the door to temptations, and, 
although they do not kill the soul, make it excessively ill." 2 
Remission Perhaps there is nothing which so completely illustrates the es- 

sential difference between, mortal and venial sin as an enquiry into 
the various ways by which venial sin can be remitted. The Catholic 
doctrine regarding the remission of mortal sin turns, as we have seen, 
on the sacrament of Penance, which in the present order is the way 
determined by God for reconciliation with him. If the sinner re- 
pents of mortal sin, in the sense explained above, even though it 
be only through fear of God's punishment, he is in the salutary 
disposition for justification. By the divine mercy the absolution of 
a priest authorised by the Church restores the repentant sinner to a 
state of grace and friendship with God, and if the motive of contrition 
is the love of God above all things, the soul is immediately justified, 
even before the sacrament is received, provided it is at least implicitly 
desired. 3 

Inasmuch as the state of mortal sin is equivalent to the loss of 
sanctifying grace, and the infusion of grace is identical with the re- 
mission of mortal sin, the doctrine concerning the remission of mortal 
sin can be easily understood and clearly formulated. But it is not 
possible to state with quite the same directness the method by which 
the guilt of venial sin is remitted, for venial sin is not accompanied 
by the loss or diminution of habitual grace and charity ; it causes the 

1 Luke xvi 10. 

2 Devout Life, Bk. I, chap. xxii. 3 See above, pp, 941 ff. 


acts elicited by a person in the state of grace to be lessened in fervour ; 
it does not destroy charity, but merely impedes its exercise. It is 
because the effects of venial sin are of this character that it is difficult 
to state the doctrine concerning their remission, for the effects 
must necessarily differ with the individual, and will depend very 
largely on the degree of virtue and sanctity which has been attained ; 
whereas the effects of mortal sin, as far as the loss of grace is con- 
cerned, are identical in all sinners. Nevertheless, on the data 
already examined, it is possible to outline the ordinary theological 
teaching. . 

It is needless to say that venial sin is adequate and. sufficient 
matter for sacramental absolution. This is the simplest and most 
obvious way of securing forgiveness from God, and is universally 
practised by the faithful throughout the whole Church. But, inas- 
much as venial sins can be remitted in other ways, there exists no 
obligation to confess them in the tribunal of penance. Further- 
more, and as a consequence of this certain doctrine, an act of perfect 
contrition remits venial sin without any sort of clause or condition 
referring to the future reception of the sacrament of penance. 

We have seen that the sinner, in, repenting of mortal sin, is bound 
to use sufficient diligence to recall the mortal sins that he has com- 
mitted, in order to repent of each one that he remembers. But, since 
venial sins need not necessarily be confessed there being various 
other ways in which they may be remitted they need not each be 
recalled to mind. This does not mean that repentance is unnecessary 
for venial sin. It means only that the repentance need not be ex- 
plicit in respect of each venial sin that we have committed. Such 
explicit repentance is indeed desirable ; but it is sufficient that we be 
prepared explicitly to repent should such venial sins be recalled to 
mind. A further difference between repentance for mortal sin and 
repentance for venial sin should be noted : it is possible to repent of 
one venial sin without repenting of the others, whereas m the case 
of mortal sin this is not possible. 1 Apart from these differences, 
repentance for venial sin should include all the essentials of repentance 
already explained. 

It follows, therefore, that various movements of the soul towards 
God, especially when they are accompanied by the reception of a 
sacrament or by some public rite of the Church, will have the effect 
of remitting venial sin, even though there is no formal and explicit 
repentance. For since we have seen the effect of venial sin to consist 
in a diminution of the fervour of our actions, it follows that some act 
of devotion or piety deliberately performed will have the effect ol 
restoring the balance, always provided that an explicit act of repent- 
ance would be made did we but advert to the sin. This is especially 
the case when the act is not merely a private one, such as almsgiving 
or other works of charity, but is accompanied by some special 

1 See above, pp. 93 *> 938- 


intervention of the Church, as in the use of various sacramentals, 
blessings, or other sacred rites with which Catholics are familiar. 

Most of all is the remission of venial sin obtained by the reception 
of the sacraments, especially of the Holy Eucharist. It is not only 
the antidote which preserves us from mortal sin, as the Council of 
Trent teaches, 1 but it frees us from daily faults. " Just as by bodily 
food the daily waste and loss is repaired, so also the Holy Eucharist 
repairs what has been lost through our falls into lesser sins, by re- 
mitting them/' 2 . . 

In all these ways of securing the remission of venial sm, it must 
be clearly understood that repentance is necessary, either actually 
and explicitly, as when venial sins are confessed, or at least implicitly 
to the extent that the recollection of such sins would be attended 
by repentance did we but advert to them or recall them to our minds. 
In this sense all the qualities of true repentance must be present, 
and in particular the purpose of amendment, if we are to obtain 
remission of venial sin. m 

It will be perceived, therefore, that in some ways it is difficult to 
repent of lesser sins, for it requires very considerable reflection and 
determination in order to detest a venial sin above all evils. Ac- 
cordingly, since remission of punishment only follows remission of 
guilt, we cannot form an exact estimate concerning the extent of our 
debt of punishment. That debt may be exacted to the last farthing. 
We may gain plenary indulgences, but the penalty of unrepented 
venial sin is not included in the remission. A proper appreciation 
of the nature of venial sin helps us not only to perceive how utterly 
different it is from mortal sin, but to understand more perfectly the 
necessity of a cleansing purgation after death, since nothing defiled 
can enter heaven. 3 Above all, it brings home to our minds something 
of the meaning of holiness, without which no man can see God. 4 


GOD incarnate suffered and died in order to repair the ruin caused by 
sin, by offering to his eternal Father adequate satisfaction for the 
affront to God's majesty. The Redeemer of mankind is spoken of in 
the Holy Scriptures as " bearing our infirmities, bruised for our 
sins " 5 " made sin for us." 6 But, inasmuch as Christ himself was 
sinless, he could not make an act of repentance in the sense explained 
above ; hence the Church has strictly forbidden such phrases 
as " Christ the Penitent " even in a devotional use. He did not re- 
pent for the sinners of the world : he offered satisfaction for their 
sins. The same is true, proportionately, of the many instances in 

1 Sess. xiii, chap. 2. 

2 Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, chap, iv, q. 50. 

3 Apoc. xxi 27. 4 Heb. xii 14. 
6 Isa. liii 4. tt 2 Cor. v 21. 


the lives of the saints, in which we are told that they undertook 
penance for the sins of others. Only the sinner can, repent in the 
strict sense of the word ; but that part of repentance which is con- 
cerned with offering satisfaction to God can be undertaken vicariously 
by others. 

For it has pleased God to redeem all men, who fell corporately 
in Adam, by incorporating them in Christ the second Adam. From 
the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ x many profound truths 
of deep significance are drawn. In particular the familiar idea of 
Reparation, included in Catholic devotion towards the Sacred Heart 
of Jesus, has its doctrinal basis in the fact that all Christians are mem- 
bers of one body whose head is Christ. On this solidarity of the whole 
human race in Christ rests, not only the justification but the necessity 
of the Christian practice of offering reparation to God ? in various 
ways, for the sins of the world. For the notion of reparation, while 
including our own personal offences, is chiefly concerned with satis- 
faction for the sins of others. 

In the plenitude of his desire to expiate for the sins of the world, 
Christ chose the way of suffering. It is chiefly by suffering, there- 
fore, that the members of his mystical body share in Christ's expiatory 
sacrifice. Not only do they share in it, but it is the will of Christ 
that their sufferings should be necessary for the completion of his own. 
In " filling up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of 
Christ," a St Paul rejoiced in his own sufferings and besought his 
brethren " to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing 

unto God.' 1 3 i , r 

Deliberately to choose suffering requires an unusual degree ol 
sanctity, as well as a finer appreciation of all that it means to 
be a follower of Christ. The illustrious examples drawn from 
the lives of saints, whether in the ranks of the priesthood, or of 
religious Orders, or of the laity, are imitated in our own times also. 
But every Christian is expected to suffer with Christ by patience 
and resignation in adversity, in the pains of illness, in poverty, m 
subjection to authority, and in performing the duties of his state 

of life. . _ . 

The value of our reparation consists, of course, not in suttermg 
as such, but ia freely and deliberately offering it to God in union 
with the passion of Christ. This may be done during times of 
prayer, but the moment above all others when such reparation should 
be offered to God is while assisting at the sacrifice of the Mass, which 
is one with that of Calvary. The priest offers that sacrifice m the 
name of the whole Church and " of all here present, whose faith and 
devotion are known unto thee ; for whom we offer, or who offer up 
to thee, this sacrifice . . . this oblation of our service as also of thy 
whole family." 4 " Even as I willingly offered myself to God tor thy 

1 Qf. Essay xix. 2 Col. i 24- 

Rom. xii i. 4 Canon of the Mass. 


sins upon, the Cross , . . even so must thou willingly offer thyself 
daily to me in the Mass." x Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso. 

Thus in commending to the faithful the necessity of making re- 
paration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pius XI speaks as follows in 
the Encyclical Miserentissimm Redemptor : " Although the plentiful 
redemption of Christ abundantly forgives all our offences, yet by 
that wonderful disposition of the divine Wisdom whereby we have 
to fill up in our own flesh those things that are wanting of the suffer- 
ings of Christ, for his body which is the Church, 2 we can, nay, we 
must, add our own praise and satisfaction to the praise and satisfaction 
which Christ gave to God in the name of sinners. It should be re- 
membered, however, that the expiatory value of our acts depends 
solely upon the bloody sacrifice of Christ, a sacrifice which is renewed 
unceasingly, in an unbloody manner, on our altars. . . . For this 
reason, with the august sacrifice of the Eucharist must be united the 
immolation of the ministers and also of the rest of the faithful, so 
that they too may offer themselves f a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing 
unto God.' 3 Christ, then, as he still suffers in his mystical body, 
rightly desires to have us as his companions in the work of expiation. 
In this manner he desires us to be united with him because, since we 
are * the body of Christ and members of member/ 4 what the head 
suffers the members should suffer with it." 6 


1 Imitation, Bk. IV, chap. 8. a Col. i 24. 

3 Rom. xii i. 4 i Cor. xii 27. 

6 Ibid. 26. Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, May 8, 1928, Eng. 
trans., Burns Gates and Washbourne. 




" EVEN though, after you have been accepted by him, you should have 
gone astray, even though you return to him naked, yet God will re- 
ceive you again as his son, because you have returned to him." * In 
these words the early Christian writer Tertullian expounds the lesson 
to be learnt from the parable of the Prodigal Son that God is always 
ready to forgive the repentant sinner. The same lesson can be drawn 
from other parables, notably that of the Good Shepherd, and from 
the general tenor of Christ's teaching and actions. It is impossible 
to think that God would spurn the sinner who turns to him for 

Since this is so, those who have sinned have surely only to seek 
for the means of forgiveness. It is with this quest that this essay is 
concerned. When we consider the effects of sin, and the consequent 
meaning of forgiveness, we can conjecture at once that sin will be 
remitted sacramentally. Revelation, coming from God, must be a 
consistent body of doctrine. Since grace is conferred and strength- 
ened by sacraments, we may well expect that when lost it is by a 
sacrament that it will be restored. ' 

Moreover, since sanctifying grace is so immensely important, and 
its loss so great a disaster, it is in keeping with our desires and God's 
great goodness that some clear sign of forgiveness perceptible to the 
senses should exist. Otherwise we should be doubtful of pardon, 
and our very faith, our very repentance, would be sources of misery. 
The more fully we realised the evil of sin, the more earnestly we 
lamented our fall, the greater would be our anxiety and fear, the 
more should we dread the inevitable final judgement. 

Thus, even a priori reasoning leads us to hope that that final 
judgement may be anticipated by an earthly judgement, which will 
give us yet another chance of winning salvation. We should, then, 
be ready to believe gratefully that such a sacrament has indeed been 

Our knowledge of the sacramental system enables us to make 
reasonable inferences as to the form such a sacrament would take, 
and these should guide us in our inquiry. The sacraments are ex- 
ternal signs of inward grace ; and, since they are signs, they must 
accord with the nature of the grace conferred. A sacrament of pardon 
would confer the grace of remission of sins. But sins are culpable 

1 De Poenitentla^ viii 


acts crimes. The natural sign of the remission of a crime is a 
judicial decision, necessarily preceded by an investigation of the 
accusation. We should expect to find, then, if Christ did institute 
a sacrament for the remission of sins, that this sacrament would be 
a judgement, and would necessitate an inquiry into the sins to be 

Further, sin and its guilt are, at least partially, secret. Hence an 
inquiry into a sinner's guilt can be made only through his own 
voluntary admissions i.e., by means of confession. Such confession 
must be accompanied by sorrow, for we know from Christian doc- 
trine on grace, that without sorrow sin cannot be forgiven. But our 
sorrow would be merely fictitious if we were not ready to atone as far 
as we can for the insult we have offered to God. Therefore, if there 
be a sacrament by which our sins are forgiven, we should expect it 
to include confession, contrition, and satisfaction, as the necessary 
acts of the penitent sinner. And these acts, being part of the sacra- 
ment, would have to be expressed externally. 

Since the judicial decision that is to follow is also part of the 
sacrament, this too must be external. It must therefore be uttered 
by some man. But clearly if a man is to be judge over our souls, 
then to help him to use that authority rightly, our manifestations of 
guilt, of sorrow, and of readiness to atone must be made to him. 
Moreover, mere general avowal of guilt will not help him to judge 
prudently and justly : our confession then must be a full statement of 
all that he needs to know before he can give a sound decision. 

But if this judicial remission of sin is to be of use, if it is to be 
sacramental, it must be really effective. The sacraments actually 
confer grace. Hence this sacramental judgement must be effective, 
and not a mere declaration of pardon already otherwise secured. 
The man to whom so immense a power is given must clearly receive 
it from God, and that such a commission has been given must in 
some way be evident externally, for we cannot submit to an unknown 
judge. Hence it is probable that if there be a sacrament of pardon 
only the officials of the Church, the priests, would be capable of 
receiving the authority to administer it. 

Some sacrament, therefore, whereby sins can be forgiven, is 
desirable, is in accordance with God's goodness, and is consistent 
with Christian Revelation. Such a sacrament would be suitably a 
judgement and would fittingly include confession, contrition, and 
satisfaction from the penitent, and a sentence from the judge. This 
judge would probably be one of the priests of the Church, authorised 
by the Church to pass sentence. 

It remains now to see whether Christ did in fact institute such a 



IN our endeavour to ascertain whether Christ instituted a Sacrament 
of Penance we must distinguish essentials from non-essential details. 
Many modem customs that surround the administration of the Sacra- 
ment are incidental. The one thing that matters is to show that 
Christ instituted a sacrament which consists essentially in an effective 
judgement over sinners. If he gave to his Church power to forgive 
sins or to refuse to forgive them, then he did institute this Sacrament. 
The ceremonial with which such a power is exercised is not relevant 
to our inquiry. 

Apart from the general teaching of the Gospels that Christ came The power 
to call sinners to repentance, certain texts explicitly declare that he f the ke y* 
gave to the Church this power to judge sinners effectively in God's 
name. To St Peter he made the promise first. " And I will give 
to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou 
shalt bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven ; and what- 
soever thou shalt loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven." x 
Using the same words, save for the necessary change in the number 
of the pronoun, he later gave the same promise to all the Apostles. 2 
Finally, after his Resurrection, he carried out his promise and con- 
ferred this authority on them. " * As the Father hath sent me, I 
also send you,' When he had said this he breathed on them, and he 
said to them, * Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall 
forgive, they are forgiven them : and whose sins you shall retain 
they are retained. 1 " 3 

We can summarise the information to be drawn from these texts : 
Our Lord gave his Church wide discretionary powers, so that she 
can impose her obligations or remit them, and her action will be 
ratified by God ; in particular, she can forgive sins, or refuse to 
forgive ; her authority in this matter is to be exercised judicially ; 
this involves voluntary avowal of guilt, of sorrow and of readiness to 
atone, on the part of the penitent ; there is no limitation to this power, 
granted that the penitent is in the requisite condition ; it is givea 
not to the Apostles alone, but also to their successors ; only the officials 
of the Church, the priests, are able to exercise it ; finally, subjection 
to the Church's tribunal is necessary for a sinful Christian who 
desires pardon. 

It is clear from his very words that our Lord gave the Church Power of 
power to impose burdens or to remove them, and that this includes 
the power to forgive sins. The metaphor of the keys, the general 
words used in all three texts, the explicit mention of the forgiveness 
or retention of sins, can have no other meaning. Isaias uses this 
same metaphor of the keys, " And I will lay the key of the house of 
David upon his shoulders ; and he shall open and none shall shut ; 

1 Matt, xvi 19. 

a Matt, xviii 18. * John xx a 1-2.3, 

A judicial 
power, re^ 


and he shall shut and none shall open." * This is the obvious 
meaning of the metaphor, that to St Peter is given supreme power as 
God's representative to exclude from or admit into heaven. As 
St John Chrysostom says : 

" Those who are living on earth are given the control of heavenly 
affairs, and have a power which God has given neither to angels nor 
to archangels ; for it was not said to them, ' Whatsoever/ etc. 
Earthly rulers have indeed the power of binding but only over the 
body ; this power of binding, however, concerns the soul itself, and 
controls heaven ; whatever priests do below, God ratifies above, 
and the Lord confirms the decision of the servant. For what else 
did he give them than complete heavenly power ? For he said, 
' What sins you shall remit they are remitted, and what sins you shall 
retain they are retained.' What power could be greater than that ? 
* The Father has given all judgement to the Son.' And I see them 
entrusted with all this by the Son." 2 

This is so clearly a fair summary of the meaning of these texts 
that we can leave the saint's explanation without further discussion. 
The Church, then, has power to bind and to loose, and this power 
includes that of forgiving sin. 

This power over sin is judicial, and necessitates confession from 
the penitent. If the Church's ministers are to forgive or to refuse 
to forgive, they must be adequately informed about the sinner's state 
of soul. Otherwise they could not use this power rightly. As 
St Jerome wrote about the clergy, " Having the power of the keys, 
in a certain manner they judge before the day of judgement." 3 
But no man can judge even earthly offences without a full knowledge 
of the crime ; still less can we suppose that the Church is to exercise 
her dread power arbitrarily, with insufficient knowledge. Therefore 
it is that St Jerome also writes that priests should not bind or loose 
according to their moods, but only when, having heard the kinds of 
sin, they know whom to bind and whom to loose. 4 St Gregory the 
Great sums up this inference from our Lord's words ; 

" Great is the honour, but terrible the responsibility of the honour* 
. . . The cases must therefore be considered, and then the power to 
bind and to loose exercised. The fault that has been committed, the 
repentance that has followed the fault, must both be known, so that 
those whom Almighty God has visited with the grace of repentance, 
the judgement of the pastor may absolve." 6 

Our Lord's words, therefore, give the Church power to absolve 
judicially from sin, and this power necessitates full confession from 
the penitent. 

It is so obvious that the sinner must be repentant, and must avow 

1 Isa. xxii 2,2,. 

2 St John Chrysostom (344-407), De Sacerdotio, iii. 

3 St Jerome (c. 342-420), Letter to Heliodorus, Ep. xiv 8, 

4 Commentary on St Matthew's Gospel* iii (in chap, xvi, ver. 19). 

5 St Gregory the Great (540-604), Homilies on the Gospel, xxvi. 


his sorrow, that we need do no more than mention it. Moreover, 
this repentance must clearly include readiness to atone. These 
truths follow from the Christian teaching on Sin and on Repentance. 1 

Some have interpreted this power as the commission to baptise 
and to preach the gospel of Redemption. But this is against the 
plain meaning of the words ; it overlooks the fact that the commission 
to baptise was given on another occasion ; and it limits the Church's 
power to remitting by baptism the sins of the unbaptised, whereas 
our Lord said in entirely general terms, " Whose sins," and " What- 
soever you shall bind." A Christian who has sinned may well insist 
that when our Lord gave the Church power to forgive, he did not 
withdraw her subjects from her control. 

Moreover, no sin is excluded, for our Lord's words are as wide Universal 
as possible in their reference. As St Augustine tersely wrote \Per 
" There are some who said that penance was not to be allowed to 
certain sins ; and they were excluded from the Church, beiag 
heretics." 2 St Pacian also thus answers the Novatians who at- 
tempted to except some sins from the Church's power to forgive : 3 
" He excepted nothing at all. He said, * Whatsoever.' " These 
quotations are short, but to the point. To deny the universality of 
the Church's power to forgive is to deny the words of Christ. 

St Pacian also proves that this power was not given to the Apostles Permanent 
alone, but was to be passed on to their successors : P wer 

" But perhaps this power was only given to the Apostles ? Then 
to them alone was it permitted to baptise, to them alone was it per- 
mitted to give the Holy Ghost, and to them alone was it granted to 
remove the sins of the world. For all these were ordered to no others 
but to the Apostles. ... If, therefore, the power to baptise and to 
confirm has come to the bishops from the Apostles, so too have they 
the power to bind and to loose." 4 

He states here the principle by which we know that this power 
was given to the Church permanently : whatever powers are needed 
for the Church's work, even though the words conferring them were 
necessarily spoken to the Apostles alone, are also given to their suc- 
cessors. The power of forgiveness is obviously necessary for the 
salvation of men. Our Lord indeed makes it clear that he gave it to 
the Church that she might continue his work ; he introduces its 
bestowal by saying, " As the Father has sent me, I also send you." 

This power, therefore, is one that the Church must wield for all 
time, for it is given to her to enable her to accomplish her mission. 

It is also at least suggested by our Lord's words that only priests Granted only 
can forgive sins. It is, as we have seen, a judicial power. l&ut to P nests 
no judge can exercise his authority without a definite commission, a 
commission which in any society is given only to qualified officials. 

1 Cf, Essay xxvi. 

a St Augustine (354-430), Sermons, ccclii 3. 

a St Pacian (c. 390), Epi$tk$, iii 12. 4 Ep. i 7. 


The Church is a perfect society, with her own officials, and normally 
these alone can exercise authority in matters concerning the purpose 
of the society ; therefore these alone can validly exercise this judicial 

" This right is granted only to priests." " Christ granted this 
right to his Apostles, and it was transmitted by the Apostles to the 
priests/' * In these two sentences St Ambrose sums up for us 
Christian tradition and the implication of our Lord's words. 
Necessary Finally, these words show that if we desire pardon we must submit 

power to thjg tribunal of the Church. To bestow authority over subjects 

and not to enforce subjection on the subjects is an inconsistency we 
dare not attribute to God. If, when the Church refuses forgiveness, 
pardon can be nevertheless secured, then our Lord was jesting with 
his Apostles, and has failed to carry out his promise. Thus St 
Gregory VII asserted boldly his authority over all Christians. 
" Who, I ask, thinks himself excluded from the jurisdiction of Peter 
in this universal grant of the power to bind and to loose ? Unless, 
indeed, it be some unhappy man who, refusing to bear the yoke of 
the Lord, subjects himself to the burden of the devil, and wishes not 
to be numbered among Christ's sheep." a 

Though St Gregory is here speaking particularly of the claim that 
kings were above the power of the Church, his words show us how 
futile would be the gift of authority if the subjects could with im- 
punity withdraw themselves from its control. We must therefore 
recognise that, apart from submission to the Church's forgiving 
power, there is no pardon for grave sins. 

This, then, is the plain meaning of our Lord's words, these are 
the necessary implications. It has been suggested that our Lord 
did not mean what his words say, but merely authorised his Apostles 
to declare that sins are pardoned which have been already forgiven 
apart from their decision. But thus to reduce the power of absolu- 
tion to a barren declaration is not only to distort Christ's words but 
also to make them, especially in so solemn a setting, an absurd anti- 
climax. Our Lord has sent the Apostles to carry on the work of 
redemption ; to help them in this onerous task he has given them 
the Holy Ghost ; it is inconceivable that he should then proceed to 
tell them in very misleading language that they would be able to 
declare sins forgiven after they had been forgiven independently of 
their action. These words, to fit the solemnity of the occasion, 
must bear their obvious meaning, that the Apostles are empowered 
by divine commission to judge sinners and to pass on them effective 

Nor may we limit the power of remission to the remission of 
punishment alone. Eternal punishment cannot be remitted apart 
from the guilt, for the two are inseparably joined. Punishment is the 

1 St Ambrose (c. 333-397), De Poenitentia, i 2, ; ii 2. 

2 St Gregory VII fc. 1020-1085), Letter to Heriman of Mete, 1081. 


inevitable consequence of guilt. If the punishment is remitted, then 
the guilt also must be remitted. On the other hand, the temporal 
punishment due to sin can be lessened or remitted in so many other 
ways that any Christian can secure this by his own actions. It is 
unthinkable that our Lord's solemn injunction, and his gift of the 
Holy Ghost, could issue in so trivial a conclusion as the bestowal 
of a power already enjoyed by all Christians. It would be unsound 
exegesis to accept an interpretation of our Lord's words so unsuited 
to the context, and at the same time so remote from the plain meaning 
of the words themselves. We must then conclude that Christ gave 
to the Apostles and to their successors a power so great as to seem 
almost incredible the power effectively to forgive the sins of men or, 
equally effectively, to refuse forgiveness. 

" What is impossible for men is possible to God, and God is able 
to grant pardon for sins. ... It seemed impossible that sins should 
be forgiven through penance ; yet Christ granted this to his Apostles 
and by the Apostles it was handed on to the ministry of the priests. 
Hence what seemed impossible has been made possible." 1 

" But God who promised mercy to all makes no distinction 
(between forgiving slight and grave sins), and concedes to his priests 
the power of forgiveness with no exceptions." 2 

" In baptism surely there is remission of all sins ; what does it 
matter whether priests exercise this power granted to them, at bap- 
tism or through penance ? In both there is the one mystery." 3 

These sayings of St Ambrose sum. up the plain meaning of our 
Lord's words as always understood by the Church. We may there- 
fore conclude with St Leo : " And then did the Apostles receive 
power to forgive sins, when after his Resurrection the Lord breathed 
on them aad said, ' Receive the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall 
forgive they are forgiven.* " 4 

Other scriptural evidence is in itself not so clear. But if we re- 
member our Lord's words it becomes clearer, and affords at least 
indications that the Apostolic Church claimed and exercised this 
power to forgive sins. The Apostles knew well that Christians 
sinned seriously, and yet did not write of such sinners as though 
they were finally lost. They even write of them as though they 
could still enjoy effective membership of the Church. 5 It is true 
we have no detailed narrative of the actual exercise of the power of 
absolution ; there are at best some possible references. 6 But know- 
ing our Lord's words to the Apostles, knowing, too, the Christian 
teaching on salvation and on the Church, we can justifiably see in this 
treatment of sinful Christians evidence that the Church was using 
the power to forgive that had been conferred upon her. 

1 St Ambrose t De JPoenitentia, ii 2. 

2 Ibid., 1 3. 3 Ibid., i 8. 
4 St Leo, Sermon Ixxvi, De Pcentecoste, ii 4. 

* Cf. i Peter, a Corinthians, Titus, Apocalypse, passim. 

* Cf* Acts xix 1 8 sqq, ; Jas, v 16, and 19-20, etc. 


Some Certain difficulties have been raised and must be resolved. The 

objections comparative silence concerning the use of the forgiving power is best 
treated when we encounter the same difficulty in later history. There 
are also texts which seem at first to suggest either that a sinful Chris- 
tian had no hope of salvation or that there was a limit to the Church's 
power to forgive. 

In the Epistle to the Hebrews (vi 4-6) St Paul writes : " For 
it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted 
also the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 
have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of 
the world to come, and are fallen away, to be renewed again to 
penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, making him 
a mockery." 

Taken out of its context, this passage does seem to imply that if 
a Christian sinned he was finally lost. But in its context the meaning 
is clear. The Epistle is written for Jewish Christians to stress the 
fact that Christ is the Messiah and that they can look for no other ; 
if they desert Christ then they cannot expect salvation, for God's 
promises have been fulfilled, and to expect another Messiah is to 
wish to crucify the Son of God again and to make him a mockery. 
This is therefore no difficulty to the doctrine of Penance ; it is, indeed, 
a part of that doctrine : the sacramental power comes from. Christ's 
sacrifice alone. 

Again, both our Lord and St John speak of a sin that shall not be 
forgiven. Our Lord calls it blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, 1 
and St John writes of the sin unto death. * The explanation of these 
statements removes all difficulty. This sirx has been identified by 
some as final impenitence, which manifestly is n,ot forgiven. A fuller 
explanation is that this sin is the hardening of the heart against grace, 
which makes a man refuse to seek pardon. Such a sinner certainly 
is not forgiven, for he will not ask. This is the age-long explanation 
of the Church's writers, and is consistent with the scriptural state- 
ments. Neither our Lord nor St John says that the sin cannot be 
forgiven, but that it will not be forgiven. 

Scriptural evidence therefore shows us clearly that Christ did 
indeed institute this Sacrament of Reconciliation which we so deeply 
need, and that its nature is what we might have anticipated, 


IN discussing this doctrine we cannot neglect its history ; by its 
development it has become better understood, errors have been 
averted, and we have learnt to practise it more frequently and with 
greater profit. 

Comparative We must first treat of the difficulty we met in Scripture and find 
silence of a g a j n j n i ater history, that references to the Sacrament are so vague 

centuries * Matt, xii 31. i John v 16, 


and so comparatively rare that some misguided scholars have even 
denied its Apostolic origin. 

Many reasons account for this comparative silence. Of course, 
we must not expect modern phrases, such as " going to confession," 
or " saying one's penance." These phrases are merely our way of 
describing the practice. 

We are somewhat disappointed in the early references to Penance 
because we too often do what early Christian writers did not : we